Preventing Identity Theft & Other Helpful Tips
With new schemes and scams occurring daily, it's important to be vigilant regarding your personal information and the methods identity thieves use to steal from you. Take steps to prevent fraud on your email, bank accounts and online accounts by:
- Keeping your browser and operating system up-to-date. New versions and updates often include important security enhancements and can be downloaded—usually for free—on the vendor's site.
- Updating your antivirus software regularly. Anti-virus software needs frequent updates to guard against new viruses, so be sure to download updates as soon as they're available.
Safeguard Your Personal Information
- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your SSN on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
- Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your house.
Be Smart! Create a Safe Password
- Change your user ID and password periodically— every 30-60 days.
- Create a hard-to-guess password and make it unique.
- Use a mix of letters and numbers, capitalized and lower-case letters.
- Don't use single words that can be found in any dictionary.
- Don't use your name, spouse's name, pet's name, birthday, favorite food, or any personal information that others can easily obtain.
- Don't use a password that contains part of your user ID.
Watch for Spoof Emails
Spoof (aka "phishing" or "hoax") emails appear to be from a well-known company, such as your bank, or credit card company. They are not and can put you at risk. They generally ask you to click a link back to a spoof website and provide, update or confirm sensitive personal information. To bait you, they may allude to an urgent or threatening condition concerning your account.
Even if you don't provide what they ask for, simply clicking the link could subject you to background installations of key logging software or viruses. To verify an email like this, call the bank or company directly. What are spoof emails after?
- Password or PIN
- Credit card validation (CCV) code
- ATM/Debit or credit card number
- Social Security number (SSN)
- Bank account number
What To Do If You Are a Victim
Defend against ID theft as soon as you suspect it.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review the reports carefully.
- Close accounts.
- File a police report.
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission:
- Online: ftc.gov/idtheft
- By phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT
- By mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, Washington DC 20580