8 Simple Ways to Prevent Identity Theft
Bad: You lost your wallet. Worse: Someone else is racking up debt in your name. Good: You can prevent this!
1. Don’t show your signature!
It’s really important that a copy of your signature doesn’t get into the hands of identity thieves since a lot of credit card companies, banks, etc. use your signature as proof that it was you opening the account or placing the transaction.
- Instead of signing the back of your credit cards, put in there “PHOTO ID REQUIRED”. This makes sure the credit card company will have to refund you if your credit card is stolen and used, since if the criminal forges your signature and it looks similar to your real signature, the credit card company will hold you responsible for the charges. #sneaky!
- Always sign paper reciepts for packages and purchases using your initials (unless it’s a digital screen where the clerk can’t see your signature). There’s no good reason to use your real signature unless you’re signing a contract or official documents. The less service people (waiters, delivery people, etc.) see your real signature, the better.
2. Put a freeze on your account. This is the most important step — by far. Having a credit freeze on your Social Security Number means that you’ll have to fill out a form (or make a phone call) and pay $5 to temporarily lift the freeze if you want to apply for a loan, cell phone, mortgage, etc. but it’s soooo worth it, since a freeze on your account means that identity thieves won’t be able to open any accounts or take out any loans in your name while the freeze is in place. Make sure to initiate a long-term freeze at all four credit agencies — here are links to instructions for each credit bureau:
Keep in mind that the credit bureaus are super sleazy, and they’d rather you sign up and pay for their credit monitoring services, and then pay them again to help you clean up the mess when your credit is stolen. Don’t let them sell you on this crap. All you need is a freeze on your credit account. That’s it.
3. Tell the credit agencies not to share your info. They (unethically) make money by selling your info and credit report to companies who then send you solicitations for things like pre-approved credit cards. Criminals know how to tell when a pre-approved credit card offer is in the mail and grab it, sending it in accepting the offer and adding a change of address. Next thing they’re racking up charges (and putting you more and more in debt) for years behind your back and you have no idea, since you’re not getting the statements.
4. Make sure you have a copy of all the important contents of your wallet. Have the contents of your wallet photocopied or photographed on both sides — license, credit card, etc. Keep the photos in a safe but easily accessible place, like Google Drive or your locked filing cabinet at home. This way, you will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and notify.