Identity fraud, when someone steals your identity to make purchases on credit or do other activities in your name, is a real problem everyone needs to watch for. Without being careful, you can have your good name and your credit rating broken in no time, making buying a car or house as well as getting certain jobs next to impossible.
While you can clear up the mess having your identity stolen creates, doing so can be time consuming and frustrating. The best way to deal with the possibility is to take certain reasonable steps to secure your identity against criminals who would want to steal it.
Dispose of credit cards, bank statements or other sensitive financial documents properly. Kept in their whole form, those documents can provide all the information a criminal needs to steal your identity. Anything with bank account numbers, your birth date or social security number should be shredded beyond recognition.
Monitor your bank account's activity closely. You should balance your account once a month, checking all activities your bank records versus what you have recorded. Even better, sign up for online banking and check your account's activity on a daily basis. If you see anything that's off, contact your bank immediately.
The only time you should give out your credit card number to anyone over the phone should be when you are the one who made the phone call. If someone has called you saying you owe a business or other organization money, hang up and call the organization directly. Many scammers will pose as workers for utility companies and other legitimate organizations, claiming you need to catch up your bill, when in fact they are really looking to steal your credit card information.
Compile a list of numbers to call to cancel all of the cards in your wallet, including your driver's license. If you do unfortunately lose your wallet or purse, call the numbers on the list immediately.
Never carry your social security card with you. Your social security number should be guarded closely. If you end up losing your wallet or purse, a thief can do maximum damage with your social security number.
Monitor your credit report. You can get free credit reports from the three main credit bureaus once a year. You should order your reports at least once a year and look over them carefully. If you find items you do not believe are yours on your report, contact the reporting bureau and ask about contesting the item. Also ask the credit bureau how you can note in your credit file that your identity has been stolen.