Seven Ways to Avoid Identity Theft (+ Four Ways to Report It)

by Allison Ryan
Jun 26, 2024

Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information (name, social security number, bank account number, etc.). The goal is to use your personal information to drain your bank accounts, open and use credit cards in your name, and more!

A lock on a Keyboard

Did you know? About 85% of people worldwide become the victim of identity theft at least once in their lifetime.

CREATE STRONGER PASSWORDS + CHANGE THEM OFTEN

Be creative with your passwords – stay away from obvious passwords like your zip code, year of birth or sensitive information such as your mother’s maiden name or your social security number. Change your passwords every 30 to 60 days. Use a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols and try to use longer phrases instead of single words, such as:

Mary3hadalittleL@mb!

CHECK BANK STATEMENTS AND CREDIT REPORTS

Regularly review your bank statements for unauthorized transactions and check your credit report for fraud. If you receive paper statements, be sure to shred them.

UTILIZE CYBERSECURITY/ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE

Secure your electronic devices with antivirus and security software. By keeping anti-virus and anti-spam software up to date on your computer, you make it more difficult for scammers to access your personal and account information.

TYPE, DO NOT CLICK

If you accidentally open a suspicious email, don’t click on any links. Even if you think the email is legitimate, type web addresses into your browser instead of clicking on links.

LIMIT SHARING ON SOCIAL PLATFORMS

Limit your personal information on social media sites, especially if you use the data for passwords or security questions.

LOOK BEYOND THE LOGO

To make fraudulent emails or web sites appear real, scammers often include actual logos and images of legitimate companies.

SECURE YOUR NETWORK

Avoid accessing sensitive data on public Wi-Fi networks. Use private browsers, VPNs, and privacy-focused search engines to help prevent identity theft.

If you do become the victim of identity theft, here are a few ways to report it:

  1. Contact The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at IdentityTheft.gov or call (877) 438-4338
  2. Contact the fraud department at your bank/other institutions where you have accounts.
  3. Contact the IRS and fill out an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit (Form 14093) if someone has used your SSN to get a tax refund.
  4. Contact the three major credit reporting agencies and ask them to place fraud alerts and a credit freeze on your accounts.
    • TransUnion: (888) 909-8872
    • Experian: (888) EXPERIAN (888) 397-3742
    • Equifax: (800) 685-1111
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