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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5. When you lose your credit cards, cancel them immediately. As I just mentioned, a list of your various cards should be kept in a safe place (like in Sync.com, so you can access them from anywhere), including the card number and toll-free numbers displayed on the back of the card. If you lose your wallet or can’t find a card, pull up that file and call the card company to let them know your card was lost or stolen. Make calendar reminders to follow up with the credit card companies because, although they’re legally obligated, they often need several reminders before they credit you back funds from fraudulent purchases. 

8 Simple Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

Call and cancel your cards IMMEDIATELY

6. If your card is stolen, notify the authorities.

  • File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where they were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent — and this is a first step toward an investigation should there be one.
  • Also, call the four national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert under your name and also call the Social Insurance fraud line number (see below). This will alert any company that checks your credit and they will have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.
  • Notify the FTC. This is only necessary if you think your identity has in fact been stolen. For credit card fraud, in which only a single account was compromised, an FTC report isn’t warranted. To file a report, you can visit the government website FTCComplaintAssistant.gov or call 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338).

7. Check your statements monthly. Go through each credit card and bank statement with a fine-tooth-comb. Make sure you recognize each and every transaction. If you don’t, then call the credit card company to get more info or to dispute the charge.

8. Check your credit yearly. Oh yeah, and you don’t have to pay for your credit report. The government mandates that, by law, you’re entitled to at least one free credit report from each agency each year (but the credit unions still try to trick you into paying anyhow). While plenty of websites and creditors promise free credit reports (then turn around and sell your information increasing your chances of identity theft, or sneakily sign you up to other services you don’t want), the official site to request them is AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 877-322-8228.

8 Simple Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

Yes, you can dramatically reduce the chances of theft just by following these tips!

…and a few more bonus tips:

  • Create strong passwords and regularly change them, and enable “two-factor authentication” wherever possible (this means you’ll get a text message with a code that will let you login — but only for the first time you access that website on a new device).
  • Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards, to prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
  • Keep personal information such as your address and phone number off social media sites, as well as any details you use for online security questions (like your mother’s maiden name).
  • Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Keep it in a locked safe at home.
  • To prevent getting spyware installed on your computer don’t click unknown links in emails.
  • Collect your mail promptly. Place a hold on your mail when you are away from home for several days.
  • Want more? Here are some tips from the US Government.

8 Simple Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

Remember the numbers to call when your credit cards and SS card are lost/stolen:

Equifax:  USA 888-766-0008 & Canada 800-465-7166
Experian (formerly TRW):  888-397-3742
Transunion:  800-680 7289
Innovis:  800-540-2505
Social Insurance (fraud line):  USA 800-269-0271 & Canada 800-206-7218
The FTC:  877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338)

Need another number? Try GetHuman.com to find a number that connects you to an actual human being.

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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 traveling around Europe, with pied-a-terre's in Zurich, London, Milan and Lyon, France. 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 life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 106 Comments

  1. April Wagner

    Isn’t the government aware of this? How is the ministry of economy allowing these scammers to get away with it like this? This is all so crazy. I’m curious to find out more, and educate myself on this. Thank you.

  2. Carly Hawkins

    I try my best to use small wallets just so I won’t be tempted to put all my cards there when I go out. Before I even head out I think of the things that I need to purchase beforehand and just put 1 card that can give me everything I need. Aside from the fact that I could probably save money by being aware of what I have to purchase or what I don’t need to purchase, it also prevents me from getting into a big fuss if I lose my wallet along with a bunch of cards in it.

  3. Mary Green

    Don’t let these companies trick you. I also haven’t seen any company that managed to prevent thefts before it even happened. Unless they have an employee that has clairvoyance. ?

  4. Tricia Marie

    It’s also important to keep track of all your cards. There are busy people out there that have like 5 cards and I’m like… How do you keep track of those?

    • Amelee Adelaide

      I agree that it’s important that you keep a copy of the details of your cards in a safe place. It’s also useful for emergencies aside from identity theft. God, I hope my identity never gets stolen! That sounds AWFUL!

      • Seth Clarke

        An emphasis on the CANCEL YOUR CARDS IMMEDIATELY. Don’t wait until you’re in a debt bigger than the empire state building.?

  5. Nica Holmes

    Most of us don’t have shredders at home so take the time to at least tear or cut documents with substantial information with scissors. This takes a bit of work on your side but it’s better than getting your money stolen.

  6. Nathalie Klein

    It’s important to really create strong passwords. Don’t put your son or daughter’s birthday. That’s so easy to guess.

  7. Leila Bartholomew

    Great reference. A lot of people don’t know who or where to call when something like this happens!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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