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What can I do to prevent identity theft?

Here are several ways to protect your assets and good name:

  • One of the simplest ways to avoid card fraud is by keeping your cards safe from thieves. Place your cards in a purse or wallet close to your body where it can't easily be snatched away. If you're shopping in a high traffic area, carry a smaller purse because it's harder to steal or sneak into. Only carry the one or two cards you'll be using that day with you. Leave all your other cards at home. Shred Anything with your card number on It
  • Shred your bank statements to keep thieves from getting access to your account numbers and old cards that have expired or been canceled. You can go a step further and put the shredded pieces in different trash bags for the extra eager thieves who might put shredded pages or cards back together.
  • Always verify the amount on your receipt before signing it. If you get a card receipt that has blank spaces in it, write $0 in those spaces or draw through them before putting your signature on the receipt. Otherwise, the cashier could write in an amount and send the purchase to your card issuer.
  • Only give sensitive information (card numbers, account numbers, Social Security numbers, address or date of birth) on calls you initiate. If you need to call your bank, use the number on the back of your card.
  • Don't click on email links from anyone that looks like your bank or another business who uses your personal information, even if the email looks legitimate. These links are can be phishing scams and the scammers want to trick you into entering your login information on their fake website. Instead, go directly to that business's website to login to your account.
  • Report Lost or Stolen Cards Immediately. The sooner you report a missing card the sooner your card issuer can cancel your card and prevent fraudulent charges.
  • Review your billing statements each month. Unauthorized charges on your card are the first sign of card fraud. If you notice a charge you didn't make, report the charge to your card issuer immediately.
  • Create Strong Passwords and keep them safe. Your card number may be stored in several places online. For example, you may save your card on Amazon so you can make one-click purchases. Make sure you use strong passwords with a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and even characters. Avoid writing down or sharing your password.
  • Keep your personal identification numbers (PINs) for your ATM and credit cards safe, and don't write your PIN on the card itself, or store it in the same place you store your card. You should also guard your ATM and card receipts.
  • Make sure to create secure PINs and passwords. Don't use birth dates, parts of your Social Security or driver's license numbers, your address or your spouse’s or children's names or birthdates, for example. Someone trying to steal your identity probably has some of this information. 
  • If you get financial offers in the mail that you're not interested in, shred them before throwing them away so thieves can't use them to steal your identity. Destroy any other financial papers, such as bank statements or invoices, before getting rid of them.
  • Don't put outgoing mail in or on your mailbox. Drop it into a US Postal Service collection box. Thieves could use your mail to steal your identity.
  • If you don’t get one or more of your regular bills in the mail, call each company to find out why. A thief could have filed a false change-of-address notice to send your mail to another address.
  • If your bills include suspicious items, such as charges you don’t recognize, don't ignore them. Instead, investigate them immediately. Periodically contact the major credit reporting agencies to get and review your file and make sure your information is correct. You can request a free annual credit report from each of the 3 national credit reporting agencies, whether or not you suspect any unauthorized activity on your account, by visiting www.AnnualCreditReport.com or calling 1-877-FACTACT (1-877-322-8228). Or you can request a report by directly contacting each of the agencies below. They can also tell you about setting up fraud alerts and security freezes:
  • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
  • Experian: 1-888-397-3742
  • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

You may also want to look at these resources to get more tips and information:

  • Onguard Online: This site offers practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer and protect your personal information.
  • FDIC video: Don’t Be an On-line Victim: How to Guard Against Internet Thieves and Electronic Scams
  • U.S. Department of Justice: Fraud Section websites

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