10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Follow these ten steps to help keep your financial and personal information safe.

1. Use a secure internet connection and secure websites when entering your personal information

Use a secure Wi-Fi connection when banking and shopping online. Do not use the free Wi-Fi at a coffee shop, fast food place, or any other business as it is not guaranteed to be secure. Whenever you are transmitting sensitive information online make sure that you are using a website that is secure. Look for “https” and the padlock icon in the URL bar.

2. Do not reply to unfamiliar emails or calls; also do not click on anything in the email

Scammers send out fake emails in an attempt to steal your information. Remember, the IRS never texts, calls, or emails you. They will send you a formal letter to inform you if you owe back taxes.

3. Shred documents/paperwork with personal information before discarding

Thieves will dumpster dive to find Social Security numbers and other sensitive information; don’t make it easy for them.

4. Check your mailed monthly statements or balances online

Stay vigilant; checking your statements regularly can help you catch fraudulent purchases early on.

5. Record your doctor visits, procedures, prescriptions and then compare to your insurance bills and explanation of benefits

In 2015 there were about 781 U.S. data breaches, 35.5% occurred in the Medical/Healthcare industry.(Source:  http://www.idtheftcenter.org/images/breach/ITRCBreachStatsReportSummary2015.pdf)

6. Notify creditors or financial institutions of any unauthorized transactions

When reviewing your statements or balances online and you notice an error or possible fraud, report it immediately.

7. Pull your credit report once a year from each credit bureau

You can check your credit for free once a year at: www.annualcreditreport.com from each of the three credit bureaus. Remember to also use a secure Wi-Fi connection and URL.

8. Follow up on any denial of credit

If you recently applied for credit, you were denied and are unsure of the reason, this could be an indication of an error on your credit report. More importantly if you receive a denial letter for a line of credit you did not apply for – this could be an indication of identity theft. Make sure to call the company where the denial was made and also contact the credit bureaus to check your reports.

9. Place a fraud alert or credit freeze

Fraud Alert – This warns potential creditors to verify your identity before new lines of credit can be issued. Credit Freeze – freezes your credit report so that no one else can obtain a line of credit using your identity.

10. If it seems too good to be true – it probably is

Take Charge Illinois offers a workshop on Identity Theft. Learn about the many ways thieves can steal your financial and confidential information and what you can do to keep it out of their hands. Schedule a program today.