You've heard horror stories of someone stealing your "financial identity" to make purchases using your bank account or credit cards. They may also open new accounts and credit cards in your name.
While your financial losses are typically limited to less than $50 by state and federal laws it's still frustrating, time-consuming and outright scary to clean up your credit after it's been hacked. Furthermore, it can take months and even years to rebuild your financial health. In the meantime, you may have a hard time getting credit or loans, renting apartments and even getting hired until you do.
Here are 10 Easy Ways to Prevent Identify Theft
- Limit the number of credit cards you use. Carry just one credit card at time.
- Never carry your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport in your wallet or purse.
- Call 888-5OPTOUT to remove your name from the marketing lists of the major credit reporting agencies. You'll receive fewer pre-approved credit card offers—and be less at risk that someone will steal that information from your trash or recycling bins.
- When ordering new checks, pick them up at the bank. Don't have them mailed to your home. Deposit bills in mail boxes rather than leaving them sticking out of your home mail box or in an "out box" at work.
- Install a locked mailbox at your residence to deter mail theft. When you're away from home for an extended time, have your mail held at the Post Office, or ask a trusted neighbor to pick it up.
- Keep a list or photocopy of all your credit cards, bank accounts and investments—the account numbers, expiration dates and telephone numbers of the customer service and fraud departments—in a secure place (not your wallet or purse) so you can quickly contact these companies in case your credit cards have been stolen or accounts are being used fraudulently.
- Never give out your Social Security number, credit 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.
- Place receipts in your wallet rather than in the shopping bag when you are shopping.
- Shield your hand when using a bank ATM machine. "Shoulder surfers" may be nearby with binoculars or video camera.
- Memorize your passwords and NEVER carry them in your wallet. Use different passwords for each website where you shop or provide financial information. If you limit the number of accounts you have open, you'll have fewer to remember.
What if your accounts or information are compromised?
Call your bank or credit card company immediately if you suspect your accounts or personal information is compromised. Also, ask them to put a hold on your accounts. They can help you assess the situation and close and reopen any at-risk accounts. If no fraudulent transactions have taken place or checks are missing, they may advise you to change your passwords for any potentially compromised accounts.
You should also make a report to the police and make sure to ask for a copy of the police report. You'll need to provide the police report to companies looking to collect for fraudulent purchases made in your name.
We Can Help
If your identity is compromised, Identity Theft Counselors are available. They will walk you through the recovery process, if necessary. In addition, counselors will provide connections to information, FTC Affidavits, referrals for legal representation as well as assessments and resources. Your benefit includes up to three 30-minute telephone consultations with an Identity Theft Counselor.
In addition, we will refer you to a local practicing network attorney with experience in these types of issues. You will receive up to a 30-minute consultation free and 25% off the attorney's hourly rate for future appointments.
If you are a member of one of our solutions, give us a call to speak with a representative.
- EAP members: call 800.383.1908
- Physician aWell Being Resources members: call 877.731.3949