- Protect your Social Security number. Do not use your SSN as an identifier at work, school or on your driver’s license. Request a new number to substitute as an ID if this is assigned automatically.
- Check your credit report, which is available free once every 12 months at www.annualcreditreport.com from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If you suspect that there are any inaccuracies, call the bureau immediately. (Call Equifax at 800.685.1111; Experian at 888.EXPERIAN; or TransUnion at 800.888.4213.)
- Create passwords and PINs that are difficult for others to guess but easy for you to remember. Memorize the numbers to avoid having to write them down.
- Buy a shredder to destroy any financial and personal documents before throwing them away. This includes bills, statements and pre-approved credit card offers.
- Check your wallet: Do not carry your Social Security card, birth certificate, passport, or extra credit cards unless absolutely necessary.
- Never put outgoing documents that contain personal information in your mailbox to be picked up; drop them directly at the post office or a postal service mailbox.
- Be aware of your surroundings especially when using an ATM, entering PINs or making a purchase with a credit card. Scam artists can easily look over your shoulder, or even spy from far away to steal your information.
- Use caution when responding to, or clicking on, an unfamiliar or unsolicited email. It is very easy for someone to scam you by using a seemingly authentic Web address.
- Avoid emailing personal or financial information to anyone. It is much safer to furnish this information over the phone, provided you are the one who initiated the call.
Report any suspicious activity to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) immediately. For more important prevention tips visit the FTC Web site at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
- Lost wages (up to $1,000 a week for five weeks)
- Reasonable attorney fees incurred, with prior approval
- Telephone, certified mailing and notary charges
- Loan re-application fees
- Daycare and eldercare expenses
Be safe, be aware of the identity thieves out there.