Your personal identity is one of your most valuable assets, and it is important to be proactive when it comes to defending yourself against identity theft. Identity theft occurs when an individual uses another's name, address, Social Security number, or other identifying information with the intent to commit fraud.
Once they have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, make charges to your existing credit cards or open new credit cards, open new utility accounts or even create fraudulent charges on your health insurance.
10 steps to stay protected
- Don't give out personal information. Never give out account numbers or personal information over the phone unless you have initiated the call. Never give out account numbers or any personal information in response to an unsolicited email request.
- Destroy sensitive documents. Shred account statements, credit card offers and credit card receipts that contain personal information before discarding them.
- Keep your Social Security card in a safe place. Never carry it on your person or in your wallet unless you need it that day.
- Sign your cards. Only carry necessary credit cards and make sure they are all signed.
- Stay organized. Make a list of all your card numbers and issuer contact information to make it easier to report cards lost or stolen. Keep the list in a safe place; do not carry it with you.
- Split up important information. Avoid keeping your credit and debit cards, Social Security card, birth certificate and passport all together. Carry only what you will be using.
- Think twice about mail. Avoid leaving outbound mail in an open or unlocked mailbox where it can easily be taken.
- Use smart passwords. When creating passwords and PINs, avoid the use of the last four digits of Social Security numbers, birth dates, middle names, pet's names, consecutive numbers or anything else that could easily be discovered by thieves. Do not use information that can be easily found on your social media sites.
- Reduce the amount of preapproved offers you receive. Remove your name from the marketing lists of the three credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This will limit the number of preapproved offers of credit sent to you. For more information or to remove your name, visit Opt Out Prescreen or call 888-567-8688.
- Monitor. It's always a good idea to request copies of your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus once a year and review them carefully. You can request a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – online at Annual Credit Report or by calling 877-322-8228. As a benefit of membership in Thrivent Financial, you have access to a free period of an Identity Theft Monitoring program offered by Thrivent Financial.