- Mail – Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery. Deposit outgoing mail in a post office collection box. Do not place outgoing mail in an unsecured residential mailbox. If you are going to be out of town, either place a hold on your mail at the post office or arrange for a trusted friend or neighbor to pick it up for you. Notify your creditors in advance of any change of address. Before you discard mail that contains your personal information, shred it. Keep track of when your bills are received. If you notice that your bills are arriving late or not at all, contact your creditors immediately. Similarly, if you applied for a new credit card, or your old card expired and your new card hasn’t arrived in a timely manner, contact the credit card issuer immediately. Missing mail is a red flag for identity theft.
- Personal information that you carry – Empty your wallet or purse of unnecessary credit and debit cards, your Social Security card, blank checks, usernames and passwords, PIN numbers, your mother’s maiden name, and any other unnecessary personal identifying information.
- Personal information in your vehicle – Do not store personal information in your vehicle, especially mail, blank checks, and financial information.
- Personal information in your home – Do not leave personal information (such as your passport, Social Security card, and financial records) lying in obvious places around your home. In the event of a break-in, it should be difficult for a burglar to locate your sensitive personal information. If possible, store your personal information in a secured, fireproof safe that is difficult to find and even harder to access or haul away. If you want to be extra careful, you could install a home camera system to give your home extra security.
- Discarding personal information – Shred all documents containing personal information before throwing them in the garbage. Cut up expired credit cards, and shred pre-approved credit card applications.
- Receipts – Never leave receipts at bank machines, in trash receptacles, or with retail merchants. Save all ATM and credit and debit card receipts and match them against your monthly statements.
- Mobile devices – If you carry a mobile device, such as a cellular phone or a tablet or laptop computer and that device stores your personal information or could be used to access your personal information, block access to that device by using a strong PIN number or password. Do not use obvious or easily-guessed passwords. If possible, enable encryption and “remote wipe” features, and consider installing a “lost device” tracking application. Do not remain “signed in” to applications that can access your personal information, especially financial, e-mail, and online shopping-related applications; always “sign out” from those applications. Guide to protecting your smartphone.
- Telephone calls – NEVER give out your personal information over the telephone UNLESS you initiate the telephone call AND you trust the person or entity that you are calling. If someone else initiates the contact by calling you, DO NOT give that person your personal information, even if the person sounds official, or claims to be calling from a reputable company or government agency.
- Internet communications – The rule is the same: NEVER give out your personal information over the Internet UNLESS you initiate the contact AND you trust the person or entity that you are dealing with. If someone else initiates the contact by sending you an e-mail, DO NOT give that person your personal information, even if the e-mail looks official, or the sender claims to be associated with a reputable company or government agency. In 2011, the Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that the No. 1 Internet-related crime involved the suspect posing as the FBI to induce the victim to disclose personal information.
- Internet safety – Block access to your computer and wireless network by using a strong password. Do not write down, or store written passwords near your computer. Consider installing encryption software and password-protecting sensitive files stored on your computer. Do not open e-mails from strangers, or click on suspicious e-mail attachments or hyperlinks. Update your anti-virus software and anti-spyware protection software on a regular basis. Make sure that you have a firewall software application installed on your computer and that it is “enabled.” Never send personal information over the Internet unless the website is secured AND the recipient is a person or organization that you fully trust.
- Credit reports – Order your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year. Review your credit report for suspicious activity or discrepancies.
- Stop unsolicited pre-approved credit card applications – Stop mail solicitations of pre-approved credit card applications by removing your name from the credit bureau marking lists. You can do this by calling (888) 5OP-TOUT. OptOutPrescreen is the official reporting industry website to accept and process requests from consumers to opt-in or opt-out of offers for credit or insurance.
- Stop unsolicited phone calls and mail from telemarketers – The National Do Not Call Registry gives you a choice about whether to receive telemarketing phone calls at home. Most telemarketers should not call your telephone number once it has been on the Registry for 31 days. If they do, you can file a complaint. To place your home or cellular telephone number on the Registry for free, visit the foregoing website or call (888) 382-1222.
If you want to remove your name from telemarketing telephone and mailing lists,
visit the Direct Marketing Association website.