Identity thieves rob more than 500,000 Americans every
year. Credit can be damaged, and fixing it can cost you hundreds
of dollars and take hundreds of hours of your time. These steps
will help you reduce your risk of identity theft.
1. Guard your Social Security number. It
is the key to your credit report and banking accounts and is the
prime target of criminals.
2. Monitor your credit report. It contains
your SSN, present and prior employers, a listing of all account
numbers, including those that have been closed, and your overall
credit score. After applying for a loan, credit card, rental or
anything else that requires a credit report, request that your
SSN on the application be truncated or completely obliterated
and your original credit report be shredded before your eyes or
returned to you once a decision has been made. A lender or rental
manager needs to retain only your name and credit score to justify
3. Shred all old bank and credit statements
and "junk mail" credit card offers before trashing them.
Use a crosscut shredder. Crosscut shredders cost more than regular
shredders but are superior.
4. Remove your name from the marketing lists
of the three credit reporting bureaus to reduce the number of
pre-approved credit offers you receive.
5. Add your name to the name-deletion lists
of the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service
and Telephone Preference Service used by banks and other marketers.
6. Do not carry extra credit cards or other
important identity documents except when needed.
7. Place the contents of your wallet on a
photocopy machine. Copy both sides of your license and credit
cards so you have all the account numbers, expiration dates and
phone numbers if your wallet or purse is stolen.
8. Do not mail bill payments and checks from
home. They can be stolen from your mailbox and washed clean in
chemicals. Take them to the post office.
9. Do not print your Social Security number
on your checks.
10. Order your Social Security Earnings and
Benefits statement once a year to check for fraud.
11. Examine the charges on your credit card
statements before paying them.
12. Cancel unused credit card accounts.
13. Never give your credit card number or
personal information over the phone unless you have initiated
the call and trust that business.
14. Subscribe to a credit report monitoring
service that will notify you whenever someone applies for credit
in your name.