Preventing Identity Theft
- Protect your mail by removing it from your mailbox as soon as possible. If you believe that your mail was opened or altered, notify the sender and be aware of phone calls requesting you to verify your credit card numbers, loans, or bank accounts. If you are expecting a new or renewed credit card or other financial documents by a certain date, watch the mail to be certain it arrives and pursue the matter if it fails to arrive.
- Shred/tear up any discarded paperwork that contains personal identifiers or financial information. If a vendor uses carbon copies for credit card bills, ask for and destroy the carbons.
- Be aware of where your personal identification is kept, and who has access to it. Protect your wallet and purse, and never leave them unattended.
- Carefully review your bills, including utility bills and bank statements, to ensure that all balances and receipts match and no activity is unaccounted for.
- If you use a computer to install software that encrypts information you sent in an email. You can also ask your financial institution to add security to your accounts, such as special passwords.
- Stop pre-approved credit card offers by calling all three credit reporting bureaus and opting out of the programs. By opting out, you receive fewer pre-approved loans and credit applications.
- Do not give out personal information in response to unsolicited offers by phone, mail, Internet, or in person. Criminals may pose as legitimate business people, charity workers, or law enforcement officers to gain your trust.
- Do not use your Social Security number unless you have to, including your driver's license number and checks. The Illinois Secretary of State allows drivers the option of having a Social Security number on the driver's license.
- Do not fill out warranty cards for items you purchase or enter sweepstakes. Such information is often sold to others as a marketing tool.
- Personal identifiers, account numbers, and other private information should not be provided to someone, unless you know the information will be secure.
Reducing Your Risk
Following these steps will reduce your risk of being a victim of an identity theft. Your goal should be to reduce other people's access to your information, so you should know what people and companies do with information you give them. Keep these facts in mind:
- Know the person or company to whom you give information
- Ask what the person or company will do with the information
- Error on the side of caution-keep an eye on your financial picture, so if irregularities occur you will recognize them.
- Remember: Although you may not have to pay fraudulent bills, it will be your responsibility to correct errors and restore your good financial rating.