- Reconcile your bank and credit card statements monthly. Make sure that there is nothing suspicious or out of the ordinary on your statements.
- Guard your Personal Identification Numbers (PIN)s. Do not keep your PIN with any of your credit or ATM cards.
- Be wary of "phishing" emails that appear to be from a valid company or financial institution requesting confidential information. Legitimate organizations typically do not send unsolicited emails asking for confidential information. Do not reply to these emails or click on links embedded within them. See a sample of a spoof website and a phishing email.
- Report lost or stolen checks or credit cards immediately.
- Pay bills online or use a locked mailbox to avoid mailbox theft. You are less likely to have your personal information stolen online than from your mailbox. Have your new personal checks delivered to your local financial institution.
- Check your credit report at least twice a year. The three major credit-reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) are required to provide you with one free credit report a year. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com* to obtain yours.
- Do not give out information such as checking account, credit card or Social Security numbers over the phone unless you initiated the call.
- Avoid passwords that are easy to discover like your mother's maiden name or your birth date. Regularly change your passwords. Also, create a username that is unique and difficult for others to guess.
- Shred all documents containing personal information.
- If you think you are a victim of identity theft, take action immediately. Contact the local police, your bank(s), the three major credit reporting agencies and the Federal Trade Commission at (877) IDTHEFT. Learn more about what to do if you suspect you are a victim of identity theft.
Lost or stolen information like Social Security Cards, checkbooks, credit cards or your mail can provide criminals with enough data to commit fraud.
Onlookers at the ATM or in stores may get your PIN while you are using your debit card.
Inside jobs are also a threat to your security. An employee of a business such as a doctor's office or financial services company may illegally access personal information and sell it to identity thieves.
The Internet creates a place that criminals collect critical personal information. They use the Internet to look for personal pages that contain information like genealogical data with your mother's maiden name that can be used to set up a credit card account or possibly access existing accounts.
Phishing is an attempt to steal confidential information from consumers through the use of "pop-ups" or emails. These emails have Internet links to deceive you into disclosing sensitive information such as bank account numbers and social security numbers. Oftentimes the email appears as if it comes from a trusted source. It directs you to a "spoof" website that encourages you to divulge sensitive information.
Skimmers are devices used to read the magnetic strip from your credit card or bank card. They are often hidden in places where you legitimately use your card to make a transaction like an ATM or a restaurant. Your information is typically used within 24 hours of the skim to make online purchases.
On the phone you may be duped into providing information to someone disguising themselves as a legitimate business representative like your phone company, a department store or cable company.