Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft

Minimize the INFORMATION a thief can steal - The following are some guidelines to help avoid becoming a victim of identity fraud. If you have already become a victim, see our Tips for Victims.

  • Beware of Fake IRS E-Mails, the IRS does not initiate communication with taxpayers through e-mail.
  • Don't carry a Social Security Card, extra credit cards or a passport unless the documents are needed.
  • Memorize your Social Security Number, any personal identification numbers and passwords. If you write them down, do not record them on anything in your wallet or purse. When creating a password or PIN, do not use digits from your Social Security number, telephone number or date of birth.
  • Sign new credit cards upon receipt. Save all credit card receipts and match them against your monthly bills. Never throw them away intact in a public trash container.
  • Never loan out your credit card. Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately.
  • Never give out personal identity information, especially Social Security or credit card numbers over the phone, unless you know the person or business and initiated the phone call.
  • Beware of phone or mail solicitations disguised as promotions offering prizes or bargains designed solely to obtain your Social Security or credit card numbers.
  • Don't leave mail out for pickup and have a locked mailbox. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery.
  • Shred all mail, bills, receipts and financial documents with your name or identification numbers on them, especially pre-approved offers of credit. Thieves have been known to fish identities out of trash bins.
  • Look over monthly credit card and bank statements carefully. Follow up if any charges or withdrawals appear suspicious.
  • Order credit reports from the three major credit bureaus at least once a year and more often if you have been a victim. Check every line of information in your file for fraudulent activity and other discrepancies.
  • Pay bills electronically when possible. Follow up with creditors if you do not receive a bill on time because it could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and has changed the billing address.
  • Remove your name from the marketing lists of the three major credit reporting bureaus to limit the pre-approved offers of credit you receive.
  • Keep the number of credit cards you use to a bare minimum. Cancel all unused credit card accounts.