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!
5. When you lose your credit cards, cancel them immediately. As I just mentioned, a list of your various cards should be kept in a safe place (like in Sync.com, so you can access them from anywhere), including the card number and toll-free numbers displayed on the back of the card. If you lose your wallet or can’t find a card, pull up that file and call the card company to let them know your card was lost or stolen. Make calendar reminders to follow up with the credit card companies because, although they’re legally obligated, they often need several reminders before they credit you back funds from fraudulent purchases.
6. If your card is stolen, notify the authorities.
- File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where they were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent — and this is a first step toward an investigation should there be one.
- Also, call the four national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert under your name and also call the Social Insurance fraud line number (see below). This will alert any company that checks your credit and they will have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.
- Notify the FTC. This is only necessary if you think your identity has in fact been stolen. For credit card fraud, in which only a single account was compromised, an FTC report isn’t warranted. To file a report, you can visit the government website FTCComplaintAssistant.gov or call 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338).
7. Check your statements monthly. Go through each credit card and bank statement with a fine-tooth-comb. Make sure you recognize each and every transaction. If you don’t, then call the credit card company to get more info or to dispute the charge.
8. Check your credit yearly. Oh yeah, and you don’t have to pay for your credit report. The government mandates that, by law, you’re entitled to at least one free credit report from each agency each year (but the credit unions still try to trick you into paying anyhow). While plenty of websites and creditors promise free credit reports (then turn around and sell your information increasing your chances of identity theft, or sneakily sign you up to other services you don’t want), the official site to request them is AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 877-322-8228.
…and a few more bonus tips:
- Create strong passwords and regularly change them, and enable “two-factor authentication” wherever possible (this means you’ll get a text message with a code that will let you login — but only for the first time you access that website on a new device).
- Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards, to prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
- Keep personal information such as your address and phone number off social media sites, as well as any details you use for online security questions (like your mother’s maiden name).
- Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Keep it in a locked safe at home.
- To prevent getting spyware installed on your computer don’t click unknown links in emails.
- Collect your mail promptly. Place a hold on your mail when you are away from home for several days.
- Want more? Here are some tips from the US Government.
Remember the numbers to call when your credit cards and SS card are lost/stolen:
Equifax: USA 888-766-0008 & Canada 800-465-7166
Experian (formerly TRW): 888-397-3742
Transunion: 800-680 7289
Social Insurance (fraud line): USA 800-269-0271 & Canada 800-206-7218
The FTC: 877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338)
Need another number? Try GetHuman.com to find a number that connects you to an actual human being.