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How You Can Help Protect Against Identity Theft

Written by Equifax Experts on February 5, 2015 in Credit  |   7 comments

Every two seconds, someone in America becomes a victim of identity theft. Although it’s not entirely avoidable, there are steps you can take to help better protect yourself and your family. Consider these steps as part of your ID protection plan.

How You Can Help Protect Against Identity TheftThis is the third in a three-part series on the emotional toll of identity theft. Click here to read articles number one and two.

Every two seconds, someone in America becomes the victim of identity theft, according to Javelin Strategy and Research. It’s the number one complaint reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), according to the agency’s 2013 Consumer Sentinel Report.

Although identity theft isn’t 100 percent avoidable, there are a number of steps you can take to help protect yourself and your family.

One of the biggest emotional challenges many victims face is a loss of control, says Nancy Molitor, PhD, a clinical psychologist based in Wilmette, Illinois. That’s why it’s important to have a plan in place ahead of time in case you become a victim.

“The best thing to do is be proactive,” she says. “Make a list now and consider ‘What would I do?’ if you became a victim. Knowledge is key.”

Here are some steps for reducing your risk of identity theft:

  • Keep birth certificates, Social Security cards, and other personal documents in a lockbox in your home. Make sure they are put away when someone is working in your home or even if you have a roommate.
  • When disposing of documents use a diagonal shredder, which makes documents harder to piece together than a traditional shredder does.
  • Don’t leave outgoing bills, government forms, or tax forms in a mailbox. Take them directly to the post office. Have your mail held by the post office while on vacation.
  • Don’t put your driver’s license number on your personal checks. Consider writing just your first initial and last name instead of your full name.
  • Don’t toss credit card receipts in public places.
  • Install anti-virus software, anti-malware software, and a firewall on your computer and keep the programs up to date. A tech-savvy identity thief can use a virus to get personal information from your computer without your knowledge.
  • Use unique passwords that are different for each website.
  • Don’t put your birthdate or other sensitive information on your social media accounts, even just the month and day. A thief can figure out the year you were born by looking at your posts.
  • Consider a credit monitoring and identity theft protection product, such as Equifax Complete™ , which will alert you to changes in your credit file such as a newly opened account. Equifax Complete is available for you as well as your family (two adults and up to four minor children).

The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.


  1. Heather M. says:

    One of the real dangers of identity theft is when criminals obtain Protected Health Information (PHI), and other vital medical records. Your date of birth, social security number, home address – all of this, and more, is so incredibly sensitive that when it falls into the wrong hands it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Always ensure the safety and security of PHI and all other sensitive information by being vigilant as to who you give your information to. Never assume anything – ask if you are unsure. And remember, unlike credit cards that can be easily replaced, we all only have one date of birth, one social security number, so being breached has massive ramifications for years.

  2. James L. says:

    We are told never to carry our Medicare card in our wallet (good advice), but what is the alternative when you are making frequent doctor visits?

    • DJB says:

      Regarding carrying your Medicare card, I found a very helpful tip in a financial newsletter I receive monthly.

      Copy your Medicare card using your home printer and using a black marker, black out all but the last 4 digits of your Medicare number. When I see a provider for the first time, I do take my original card, but thereafter I take the copy. My original stays in our home lock box, and I never carry it in my purse unless I am going for a provider first visit.

      My state driver’s license has not used SS numbers for some years, and now the military IDs being renewed are not using SS numbers either.

  3. Dee W. says:

    Learned quite a bit regarding identity theft protection which I will be sure to utilize.

  4. Diane C. says:

    Had a family member use my ID and social security number to secure cable with two different companies. I paid one and refuse to pay any more. I am on a limited budget and have not got any money to pay any more bills. Hard to get the companies to understand it was not me.

  5. Patricia H. says:

    I had an enemy get a hold of my SSI number and ran up a big bill with AT&T. I didn’t even live in the same city, and I’m having a terrible time getting cleared with AT&T. I’m not going to pay that bill. I refuse. I don’t care what happens to my credit score. I’m so mad.

  6. MGeary says:

    The theft of personal information is still a problem, especially when traveling and the use of a credit card is required or requested for car rentals and hotel accommodations.

    This type of theft has been around for many, many years. I was a victim, two times over 20 years ago. After contacting my credit card company it was discovered one theft occurred when staying in a hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. The other occurred when I called a company to place an order for items. Both occurrences totaled over $3,000 of charges I did not make. The irony of this is when I was talking to my credit card representative, an individual was purchasing pizzas at a restaurant located in Michigan; a state I had not lived in nor visited.
    Thankfully, my liability was $50 for the charges, but it left me with a feeling of being “violated.”

    Those who decide to commit identity theft, theft of credit cards, health information, etc., are going to continue doing so. This is a problem that will increase over time and although companies, banks, and the authorities who investigate these issues are working diligently to keep ahead of these criminals, we, as individuals have to continue to be vigilant in keeping our information as secure as we possibly can. RFID cards in our wallets and purses helps keep our credit card information from being stolen when out and about. It is one more layer of safety we can utilize to help keep ahead of the criminals.

    It would be great if these criminals would use their knowledge for the benefit of our world. All we can do is try to use as many layers as possible to keep our personal information secure. Diligence is our best defense against personal information theft.

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