Our experts weight in on ways to keep your identity safe.


How To: Minimize Your Risk of Identity Theft

Keep important documents at home. Don’t carry extra credit cards, Social Security cards, birth certificates or passports outside the house can help minimize your risk of identity theft.

Pick up checks in person. When ordering new checks, pick them up at the bank instead of having them sent to your home. This makes it harder for your checks to be stolen, altered, and cashed by identity thieves.

Think before you share. Identity thieves may call you posing as bank or government agency officials. Do not give out personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.

Invest in a shredder. Shred your receipts, credit card offers, bank statements, returned checks, and any other sensitive information before throwing it away.

Cover your bases. Ensure that your employer, landlord and anyone else with access to your personal data keeps your records safe.

Read your credit report. Make sure your credit reports are accurate. If you spot an inaccuracy, follow-up.

Keep your SSN under wraps. If possible, make sure your bank does not print your SSN on your personal checks.

Don’t use weak passwords. Using passwords that include a mix of letters, numbers and special characters makes it harder for identity thieves to crack these codes.

How To: Use Your Credit Report To Spot Identity Theft

Look for mistakes. In some cases, a credit reporting agency may make. A typo or an incorrect address on your report may be a simple mistake — or, it could indicate that an identity theft event has occurred.

Make sure you recognize new lines of credit. Identity thieves may use an element of your identity to open a new credit card account, or even apply for a mortgage, car loan, personal loan or other line of credit. If you see an account pop up that you don’t recognize, it could be an indication of identity theft.

Be aware of delinquent accounts. When a criminal uses a non-credit identity element fraudulently, you might be able to detect the event on your credit report. A criminal might use identity elements to handle fees-due criminal offenses, medical expenses, apply for payday loans, or initiate other transactions that don’t require a credit check. Then, when the criminal doesn’t pay the bill, the account could go to collections and pop up as a delinquent account on your credit report

New names may be more than mistakes. Your credit report will reflect all of the names you have used when applying for credit. This may include variations of the same name — think John Doe vs. J. Doe — and maiden names. But if you see a completely different name on your report, it might be an indication of identity theft.