The Ultimate Guide to Identity Theft Prevention

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					The Ultimate Guide to
Identity Theft Prevention
In the last year alone, nearly 10 million Americans
became victims of identity theft, a crime that cost
them approximately $5 billion total. It is the fastest
growing crime in the United States, and if you're
not careful, it could happen to you, or perhaps it
already has. On average, it takes identity theft
victims 12 months [PDF] to realize that they have
been victimized.

 Personal Information
So what are the best ways to prevent identity
theft? Firstly, you must understand what personal
information of yours should be kept private. While
some personal information is inevitably going to be
made public, there are some items with high
sensitivity that should never be made public. See
the table below for details.
             Item             Sensitivity

   Full Name                   Low

   Address                     Low

   Phone Number                Low

   Date of Birth               Medium

   Birthplace                  Medium

   Mother's Maiden Name        Medium

   Social Security Number      High

   Bank Account Number         High

   Credit Card Number          High

   PIN or Password             High
Protecting yourself against identity theft involves
nothing more than protecting this personal
information, particularly the high sensitivity items.
Anyone with knowledge of just one of your high
sensitivity items can do a lot of damage. Part of
the battle of preventing identity theft is recognizing
how this personal information is stolen and from
 Where Your Identity Is Stolen From
 Your Mail
The Federal Trade Commission has reported that
in the last year, almost 400,000 Americans
suffered identity theft due to stolen mail. Almost all
of these incidences could have been avoided.
When dealing with your mail, be careful. It can
contain a lot of sensitive personal information.
Here are some tips for ensuring your mail doesn't
fall into the wrong hands.

      Don't leave outgoing mail in an unsecured
       location. Deposit mail in USPS collection
      Don't leave mail in your mailbox overnight
       or on weekends.
      Have your mail held at the post office while
       you're out of town.
      Get a mailbox that locks.

 Your Computer

                                Most casual PC
users are unaware of how dangerous the Internet
can be. Without the proper knowledge and
protection, you could be just a few simple
keystrokes and clicks away from having your
identity stolen. Here are some tips for preventing
online identity theft.

      Use anti-spyware and anti-virus software.
      Be wary of online shopping sites. Only
       shop at sites that you trust and are secure.
       See FTC - Online Shopping for more
      Don't get baited by phishers.
      Encrypt your wireless internet connection.
      Erase your hard drive if you ever sell or
       give away your computer.

 Your Trash
One man's trash is another man's treasure.
Nothing could be closer to the truth when it comes
to discarding personal documents. If it has your
social security, bank account, credit card, or any
other identifying number on it, remember to shred
it before you trash it. And don't skimp out on your
shredder. Get a good crosscut shredder. We
recommend the Royal 7-Sheet Crosscut Paper
Shredder. Once you have your shredder, here is a
list of items you should always shred when it
comes time to discard them.

      Bank statements.
      Credit card statements.
      Pre-approved credit card offers. (Read this
       to see why.)
      ATM receipts.
      Canceled or voided checks.
      Expired passports, visas, and credit cards.
      Tax forms.
      Bills.
      Paystubs.

 Safeguarding Your Personal
Keeping your personal information from falling into
the wrong hands will help you from becoming
another identity theft victim.
Immediately report lost or stolen credit cards
and debit cards.
As soon as you discover that one of your credit
cards or debit cards is missing, contact the issuing
bank immediately, even if you think you may find it
in a day or two. It's always better to be safe than
sorry. Most banks will immediately cancel your
missing card and reimburse you for any fraudulent
charges. In most cases, you'll receive a new card
in the mail within a week.
Don't keep your social security card in your
Sadly, this is a very common mistake. It may be
convenient to keep your social security card in
your wallet. That is, until your wallet is lost or
stolen, in which case the thief now has everything
he needs to steal your identity — name and
address from your driver's license, credit cards
and debit cards, and social security number.
Instead of carrying your social security card in your
wallet, keep it in a safe place at home.
Never provide your personal information to
anyone who contacts you through a phone
It is easy for any con artist to pretend he is a
legitimate business over the phone. So always
think twice before providing your credit card over
the phone. If you do provide your credit card
number over the phone, be certain that you were
the one initiating the call. Better yet, opt out of
these telemarketing calls entirely. Get your phone
number listed in the National Do Not Call Registry.
Check your bills and bank statements as soon
as they arrive.
Or if you have online access to your accounts,
check them regularly. Be on the lookout for any
fraudulent charges. If you notice something
suspicious, contact your bank immediately.
Opt out of pre-approved offers.
Call 1-888-5OPT-OUT or visit to remove your name from
pre-approved credit or insurance mailing lists. You
will then receive a form in the mail that you will
have to sign and return. You can indicate whether
you would like your name taken off the list for five
years or permanently. Visit the FTC page on
Prescreened Offers of Credit and Insurance for
more information.
Check your credit reports for free.
Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions
Act of 2003, you are entitled to receive one free
credit report from the big three credit bureaus
every 12 months. Just visit Upon receiving your
credit report, look for anything suspicious, i.e.
accounts opened under your name that you are
unaware of. If you notice anything suspicious,
contact the credit bureaus immediately and
consider placing a fraud alert on your reports.
Equifax — 1-800-525-6285
Experian — 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion — 1-800-680-7289
Don't list your date of birth and/or social
security number on resume. There is no reason
why most potential employers would need to know
this information about you at first glance. Also, if
you send your resume to 50 or 100 different
employers, there is no telling how many hands
your social security number may be in. And a
potential employer may not be as mindful as you
are about keeping a document like this secure.
Use your ATM card wisely.
Avoid going to the ATM late at night and always be
sure no one is looking over your shoulder when
you are entering your PIN.

                                  Guard your
Since your checks come with your name, address,
and bank account number right on them, you
should guard these with care. Don't leave your
checkbook in an unsecured place or your car. If
stolen, the thief could write a fraudulent check or
even break into your bank account. If you ever
notice that any of your checks are missing, contact
the bank immediately.
Select strong passwords.
Avoid using words or numbers that other people
can easily guess. Using your birthdate or last four
digits of your social security number are too
obvious to use as passwords or PINs. Read Eric
Wolfram's How to Pick a Safe Password for more
Secure personal information in your own
Just because you're in your home doesn't mean
you're safe. If you have roommates or employ
outside help, such as a housekeeper, avoid
leaving your mail lying about and be secure your
privacy when making any personal phone calls.
Know who else has your information
Inquire about personal security procedures at your
work, doctor's office, university, or any other
institution that keeps a record of your personal
information. Find out who has access to your
personal information, and verify that it is being
handled securely. If you feel that your personal
information is not being handled properly, contact
the Federal Trade Commission or the Better
Business Bureau.

 What to Do if Your Identity Is Stolen
While these tips are designed to prevent identity
theft, even the most scrupulous person is at risk.
Should you ever become a victim, contact your
banks and credit card issuers, the three major
credit bureaus, file a police report, and file a
complaint with the FTC.
 Posted on October 13, 2006 | Permalink