CONSIDER THIS: Identity theft—when criminals steal your personal information to open new credit cards, file fake tax returns, or sell it to other criminals—can affect your life in ways large and small. And it’s on the rise.
While it’s nearly impossible to completely prevent, there are ways to minimize the risk of someone stealing your identity.
Guard ALL of your numbers. Share them only when necessary. Legitimate companies or organizations, such as your financial institution or IRS, won’t call and ask you for personal information like a Social Security number, for example.
Be aware. Make sure someone isn’t glancing over your shoulder at an ATM or when you’re inputting personal information into your cell phone. Don’t provide a credit card number over the phone if you think someone might listen in.
Don't carry so many credit cards. If your purse or wallet is stolen, you can minimize the impact of a potential ID theft situation by putting a limit on how many cards you carry. One important note: never, ever carry your Social Security card on you.
Be alerted. If your financial institution or credit-card issuer offers free alerts to warn you of suspicious account activity as soon as it's detected, sign up for them.
Shred documents. It’s important to shred any papers that include your personal information. Many credit unions provide free shred days, take advantage of those.
Check your credit reports. Review them periodically for items that you don't recognize—such as accounts and collections—and dispute all errors or wrong information. You can receive one free annual copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus.