While there is no guarantee that your identity will never be stolen, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk:
- Sign up for and use online banking to reduce the amount of paperwork with your personal information on it.
- Reduce the number of credit and debit cards you carry in your wallet.
- Shred any documentation with personal or financial information on it.
- Do not use debit cards at all when shopping online.
- Keep a list or photocopy of all your credit cards, debit cards, bank accounts, and investments -- the account numbers, expiration dates and telephone numbers of the customer service department.
- Never give out your SSN, credit or debit card number or other personal information over the phone, by mail, or on the Internet unless you have a trusted business relationship with the company and you have initiated the call.
- Install security software that protects against viruses and scans for spyware to protect your computer.
- Never permit your credit card number to be written onto your checks.
- Watch the mail when you expect a new or reissued credit card to arrive.
- Order your credit report at least once a year.
- Create strong passwords and PINs (personal identification numbers), do not use the last four digits of your Social Security number, mother's mother's maiden name, your birthdate, middle name, pet's name, consecutive numbers or anything else that could easily be discovered by thieves.
- Memorize all your passwords, don't write them down.
- Shield your hand when using a bank ATM machine or making long distance phone calls with your phone card.
- Do not carry your SSN card in your wallet except for situations when it is required.
For more resources and ways to keep your identify safe, see PrivacyRights.org's article Coping with Identity Theft: Reducing the Risk of Fraud.