8 Simple Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

Bad: You lost your wallet. Worse: Someone else is racking up debt in your name. Good: You can prevent this!


1. Don’t show your signature!

It’s really important that a copy of your signature doesn’t get into the hands of identity thieves since a lot of credit card companies, banks, etc. use your signature as proof that it was you opening the account or placing the transaction.

  • Instead of signing the back of your credit cards, put in there “PHOTO ID REQUIRED”. This makes sure the credit card company will have to refund you if your credit card is stolen and used, since if the criminal forges your signature and it looks similar to your real signature, the credit card company will hold you responsible for the charges. #sneaky!
  • Always sign paper reciepts for packages and purchases using your initials (unless it’s a digital screen where the clerk can’t see your signature). There’s no good reason to use your real signature unless you’re signing a contract or official documents. The less service people (waiters, delivery people, etc.) see your real signature, the better.

8 Simple Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

2. Put a freeze on your account. This is the most important step — by far. Having a credit freeze on your Social Security Number means that you’ll have to fill out a form (or make a phone call) and pay $5 to temporarily lift the freeze if you want to apply for a loan, cell phone, mortgage, etc. but it’s soooo worth it, since a freeze on your account means that identity thieves won’t be able to open any accounts or take out any loans in your name while the freeze is in place. Make sure to initiate a long-term freeze at all four credit agencies — here are links to instructions for each credit bureau:

Keep in mind that the credit bureaus are super sleazy, and they’d rather you sign up and pay for their credit monitoring services, and then pay them again to help you clean up the mess when your credit is stolen. Don’t let them sell you on this crap. All you need is a freeze on your credit account. That’s it.

3. Tell the credit agencies not to share your info. They (unethically) make money by selling your info and credit report to companies who then send you solicitations for things like pre-approved credit cards. Criminals know how to tell when a pre-approved credit card offer is in the mail and grab it, sending it in accepting the offer and adding a change of address. Next thing they’re racking up charges (and putting you more and more in debt) for years behind your back and you have no idea, since you’re not getting the statements.

8 Simple Ways to Prevent Identity Theft4. Make sure you have a copy of all the important contents of your wallet. Have the contents of your wallet photocopied or photographed on both sides — license, credit card, etc. Keep the photos in a safe but easily accessible place, like Google Drive or your locked filing cabinet at home. This way, you will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and notify.

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Avatar of Hilary Rowland

A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she lives in Monte Carlo, but spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always traveling, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 106 Comments

  1. Avatar of April Wagner

    April Wagner

    Isn’t the government aware of this? How is the ministry of economy allowing these scammers to get away with it like this? This is all so crazy. I’m curious to find out more, and educate myself on this. Thank you.

  2. Avatar of Carly Hawkins

    Carly Hawkins

    I try my best to use small wallets just so I won’t be tempted to put all my cards there when I go out. Before I even head out I think of the things that I need to purchase beforehand and just put 1 card that can give me everything I need. Aside from the fact that I could probably save money by being aware of what I have to purchase or what I don’t need to purchase, it also prevents me from getting into a big fuss if I lose my wallet along with a bunch of cards in it.

  3. Avatar of Mary Green

    Mary Green

    Don’t let these companies trick you. I also haven’t seen any company that managed to prevent thefts before it even happened. Unless they have an employee that has clairvoyance. ?

  4. Avatar of Tricia Marie

    Tricia Marie

    It’s also important to keep track of all your cards. There are busy people out there that have like 5 cards and I’m like… How do you keep track of those?

    • Avatar of Amelee Adelaide

      Amelee Adelaide

      I agree that it’s important that you keep a copy of the details of your cards in a safe place. It’s also useful for emergencies aside from identity theft. God, I hope my identity never gets stolen! That sounds AWFUL!

      • Avatar of Seth Clarke

        Seth Clarke

        An emphasis on the CANCEL YOUR CARDS IMMEDIATELY. Don’t wait until you’re in a debt bigger than the empire state building.?

  5. Avatar of Nica Holmes

    Nica Holmes

    Most of us don’t have shredders at home so take the time to at least tear or cut documents with substantial information with scissors. This takes a bit of work on your side but it’s better than getting your money stolen.

  6. Avatar of Nathalie Klein

    Nathalie Klein

    It’s important to really create strong passwords. Don’t put your son or daughter’s birthday. That’s so easy to guess.

  7. Avatar of Leila Bartholomew

    Leila Bartholomew

    Great reference. A lot of people don’t know who or where to call when something like this happens!

  8. Avatar of Kimberly Shaw

    Kimberly Shaw

    If this happens to you, The first thing to do is move action and move aggressively, remember If someone has stolen your identity, they’re working as fast they can [to use your information] before you realize what’s happened.

  9. Avatar of Ashley Thompson

    While identity theft can happen to anyone, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. If you think someone is using your personal information to open accounts, file taxes, or make purchases, visit to report and recover from identity theft.

  10. Avatar of Roxy Fellows

    Roxy Fellows

    Even if you’re a busy person, take the time to tend to these kinds of problems if you want it solved immediately too.

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