Tips to Avoid Identity Theft

Reduce the chances of becoming a victim of identity theft by practicing the following tips developed by the Insurance Information Institute:

  • Keep the amount of personal information in your purse or wallet to the bare minimum. Avoid carrying additional credit cards, your Social Security card or passport unless absolutely necessary.
  • Guard your credit card when making purchases. Shield your hand when using ATM machines.
  • Always take credit card or ATM receipts. Don’t throw them in public trash containers, leave them on the counter or put them in your shopping bag where they can easily fall out or get stolen.
  • Do not give out personal information unless you have initiated the contact or are sure you know who you are dealing with and, if on the phone, know that you have a secure line.
  • Proceed with caution when shopping online. Use only authenticated websites to conduct business online.
  • Be aware of phishing and pharming scams. In these scams, criminals use fake emails and websites to impersonate legitimate organizations. Exercise caution when opening emails and instant messages from unknown sources and never give out personal, financial or password-related information via email.
  • Make sure you have firewall, anti-spyware and anti-virus programs installed on your computer. These programs should always be up to date.
  • Monitor your accounts. Don’t rely on your credit card company or bank to alert you of suspicious activity.
  • Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. Make sure the reports are accurate and include only activities you’ve authorized.
  • Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your birthdate, any part of your Social Security number or phone number or any series of consecutive numbers.
  • Shred any documents containing personal information such as credit card numbers, bank statements, charge receipts or credit card applications before disposing of them.
  • If you maintain a listing of account numbers and passwords, be sure to always keep this information in a secure place rather than on your cell phone or other potentially accessible devices.