Home > Identity Theft and Scams > 12 Tips for Protecting Your Identity

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Create strong passwords with different letters, upper and lower case, and random numbers.

5. Monitor Your Mail

Your mail is an identity thief’s goldmine; containing all the personal identifying information they need to steal your identity.  In one full sweep an identity thief can garner access to your full name, date of birth, address, and even private financial account numbers. Keep an eye on your mail, and avoid letting it pile up on a desk or in your mailbox. If you’re going to be out of town, contact your local post office and have them hold your mail while you’re away. Never leave your outgoing mail in your mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up.  Always deposit your outgoing mail in a secure post office mailbox, preferably one inside a post office. An identity thief could open up an unlocked private mailbox and steal your outgoing mail, including credit card, utility, or cell phone bills—not good.

6. Monitor Your Credit Reports

Get a free copy of your credit report. Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), you’re entitled to one free annual copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. If a thief has stolen your identity and applied for credit in your name, it will show up on your credit report. Fraudulent negative records could even damage your credit for up to 7 years. So be sure to request a free copy of your credit report and take a close look at each and every detail. Be on the lookout for any suspicious accounts or activities or any entry that you don’t recognize. Is someone with your name and Social Security number living at a different address? That could be a thief. Whether you stagger them out and check one every few months, or order one from all three agencies at the same time, monitoring your credit reports is one of the best ways to catch signs identity theft early on.

[Related Article: How to Spot, and Avoid, Internet Scammers]

7. Create Strong, Secure Passwords Online

When creating passwords and PINs, never use the last four digits of your SSN, your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, your middle name, your pet’s name, consecutive numbers, or anything else that could easily be discovered or guessed by thieves. Whenever possible, use “strong” passwords and PIN character strings consisting of different letters (in different cases), numbers, and other characters and change them on a regular schedule. And never keep them somewhere they can be lost or stolen (such as a wallet or PDA), unless you store them electronically in an encrypted file on a password-protected or other access-protected device.

8. Shop Securely Online

Never send payment information or credit card numbers through email –it’s not secure. Make sure all personal information transactions are done on a secure site. When shopping online, only use trusted, secure websites. And before providing any personal or financial information, make sure the address bar changes from an “http” to an “https” address and includes a yellow padlock logo to the right of the Web browser address bar. The “s” stands for “secure” and if you double-click on the yellow padlock logo, you’ll see a digital certificate for the website. And lastly, when shopping online, use credit cards, not debit cards. This will minimize the damage in the event a thief takes over the account.

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