Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft

Like every other type of crime, the best way to keep from becoming a victim is to be aware and be proactive. The following list includes methods that should help you from being victimized by this growing form of crime:
  • Buy a cross-cut type shredder. This type of shredder can be purchased starting at around $60. Shred all of your important papers and especially those pre-approved credit applications received in your name. Don’t forget to shred your credit card receipts.
  • Be mindful of “Dumpster Diving.” Make sure that you don’t throw anything away that someone else could use to become you. Anything that contains your identifiers must be shredded before discarding.
  • Be careful at ATMs and when using phone cards. “Shoulder Surfers” can get your PIN number and gain access to your accounts.
  • Have all of your personal checks delivered to your bank, not to your home address.
  • Do not put checks in the mail from your home mailbox. Drop them off as a Post Office mailbox or at the Post Office itself. It is easy to change the name of the payee on the check with an acid wash.
  • When you order new credit cards or when your previous ones have expired watch the calendar to make sure that you get the card within a reasonable time. If it is not received by a certain date, call the credit card grantor and find out if the card was sent. Find out if a change of address was filed if you don’t receive the card or billing statement in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Cancel all credit cards that you do not use or have not used in 6 months. Thieves use these very easily. Open credit is a prime target.
  • Put passwords on all of your accounts and do not use your mother’s maiden name. Make up a fictitious word instead.
  • Get a Post Office box or a locked mailbox if you possibly can.
  • As all financial institutions, doctor’s officers, etc., what they do with you private information and make sure that they shred it and protect your information when discarding something.
  • Empty your wallet of all extra credit cards and Social Security cards. Do not carry any identifiers that you do not absolutely need. Do not carry your birth certificate or passport unless necessary.
  • Memorize your Social Security number and your passwords.
  • When a person calls you at home or at work, and you do not know the person, never divulge any of your personal information. If they tell you they are a credit grantor of yours call them back at the number that you may already have for them. Provide only information that you believe is absolutely necessary.
  • Do not put your Social Security number on your personal checks or your credit receipts. If a business requests your Social Security number, give them an alternative to that number and tell them why. They do not need that particular number to identify you. If a government agency requests your Social Security number, there must be a privacy notice accompanying any such request.
  • Do not put your telephone number on your personal checks.
  • Get credit cards and business cards with your picture on them.
  • Do not put your credit card account number on the internet (unless it is encrypted on a secured site). Don’t put account numbers on the outside of envelopes or on your checks.
  • When you are asked to identify yourself at schools, employers, or any other kind of institution requiring ID ask to use an alternative to the Social Security number. Unfortunately, your health insurance provider often uses your Social Security number as your ID number for your coverage with them. Try and request another number if you can.
  • In conjunction with a credit card sale, do not put your address, telephone number of driver’s license on the statement or receipt.
  • Monitor all your bank statements from every credit card every month. Check to see if there is anything that you do not recognize and call the credit grantor to verify whether or not it is truly yours.
  • Order your credit report at least twice a year. Review it carefully. If you see anything that appears fraudulent or suspicious, immediately put a fraud alert on your reports by calling the numbers below:
    • Experian: 888-397-3742
    • TransUnion: 800-780-7289
    • Equifax: 800-525-6285
  • Immediately correct all mistakes on your credit reports in writing. Send those letters Return Receipt Requested. Identify the problems with the report item by item with a copy of your credit report back to the credit reporting agency. You should hear back from the within 30 days.
  • Take your name off of all promotional lists. Call the three credit reporting agencies to opt out of the pre-approved lists.
If you believe that you are the victim if identify theft contact the Oakland Police Department at 407-656-9797, ext. 2. Let an officer respond to begin an investigation and to help you begin to repair any damage that has been done.