Identity theft can happen to anyone. Personal information, such as your name, address, birthdate and social security number are often the only identifiers a thief needs to open accounts, make purchases, rent apartments or establish a local utility service – in your name. There are things that you can do to protect yourself and reduce the risk of identity theft.
Top 5 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft:
1. Keep your information private
Never give out personal information (social security number, mother’s maiden name) over the phone or through email unless you initiated the contact. Never leave receipts at ATMs or service stations. Never put credit card or other personal information on a postcard or on the outside of an envelope where anyone can see it.
2. Be Aware of Your Accounts
Run your credit report at least once a year (annualcreditreport.com) and review your account statements monthly. Keep an eye out for odd withdrawals or charges to your account – things that you know should not be there. Should you notice any discrepancies, alert your bank or credit card. In fact, you can also alert the credit bureau’s fraud unit and have an alert placed in your credit file to notify you before opening any new accounts.
3. Shred Unwanted Financial Info
All of those pre-approved credit card applications you get in the mail? Make sure you shred them, along with credit card receipts, bills and other items with financial information on it, before discarding them in the recycling bin.
4. Report lost or stolen credit cards
If you lose your wallet or purse, be sure to report lost (or stolen) credit and bank cards to help avoid their misuse. Also, if you applied for a new card or are expecting a replacement card in the mail, be sure to report it missing if you haven’t received it in a timely manner.
5. Keep Personal Mail Secured
Always remove your daily mail promptly from your mailbox. When you need to mail an item, take it to a secured post office collection box.
For more information about what you can do if you become a victim if identity theft, please visit the following resources:
San Diego County Sheriff’s Department