8 Tips to Prevent Identity Theft & Fraud

Career

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!

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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.

8 Simple Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

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.

8 Simple Ways to Prevent Identity Theft4. 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.

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A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she spends most of her time in France, NYC, London and Switzerland, and travels extensively around the world. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She’s always looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 97 Comments

  1. Kimberly Shaw

    If this happens to you, The first thing to do is move action and move aggressively, remember If someone has stolen your identity, they’re working as fast they can [to use your information] before you realize what’s happened.

  2. Ashley Thompson

    While identity theft can happen to anyone, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. If you think someone is using your personal information to open accounts, file taxes, or make purchases, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report and recover from identity theft.

  3. Roxy Fellows

    Even if you’re a busy person, take the time to tend to these kinds of problems if you want it solved immediately too.

  4. Cadi Venere

    Great tips that we can all use.

  5. Mimi Jordan

    It just takes a little bit of effort on our side to protect ourselves from identity theft. Let’s not get lazy. It’s worth it.

  6. Kelly Cloes

    I have a friend that doesn’t even check the list of purchases from her card because she feels that she doesn’t need to be reminded of all the shopping spree that she did. It was only until she decided to save and stop spending for a while that the list of purchases became short and she saw purchases that weren’t hers. That was the only time she saw that it’s been more than a year that whoever was stealing from her was purchasing stuff little by little but in significant amounts.

  7. Reign Abella

    Following the tips here might just save us the fuss of getting our identities stolen.

  8. Sydney Freign

    I agree. Change your passwords frequently and make sure it’s not just the name of your dog. Everyone knows who your dog is just by looking into your social media account. This is a reality and people actually do that.

    • Keena Cotton

      There’s a reason behind why you’re prompted when your passwords are weak or strong. Don’t get annoyed when your password needs to consist of a symbol, a capital letter, and a number. They’re annoying so you’re protected.

  9. Leila Bartholomew

    Act fast when this happens. Report it immediately. A difference of 24 hours can create so much damage already.

  10. Kit Stevens

    Even if I tell the companies not to share my information unless you can actually prove that they’re the one who shared it, it’s useless.

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