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All that a thief needs to steal an identity is your name, address, social security number, and date of birth. This information is easily obtained from driver's licenses and/or checking accounts.  To protect your identity, follow these tips:

  • Minimize information in phone books:
    A great deal of personal information is listed in telephone or organization directories. Consider an unlisted phone number.  If you list, give only your name and phone number.  Do not list your address or initials that indicate professional associations, such as Dr. or Atty.

    Use a computer generated driver's license number: Only use your Social Security Number as an identification number for its intended Social Security purposes, not as a driver's license number. Use a computer-generated driver's license number. Remember, a driver's license has all of the information a thief needs to steal your identity. Carefully protect copies of your driver's license and license number!

    Minimize identifying information on personal checks: Forego convenience, and reduce information preprinted on personal checks. Consider using debit cards instead of checks when possible. Avoid recording identification information on self-carboning checks.

    Beware of pre-approved credit offers: Pre-approved credit applications gives information thieves your identity and instant credit opportunities. Credit-reporting agencies routinely sell your name to financial institutions that solicit new credit applicants. Consumer Reports (Sept. 1997) suggests consumers call (888)567-8688 to prohibit the sale of your name and address to these financial institutions by Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. Shred or destroy ALL of these offers. Identity thieves go through mailboxes and trash for discarded pre-approved credit applications.

    Minimize Credit Card Accounts: Close any stagnant or unnecessary credit card accounts. Do not just shred your credit cards, but correspond directly with the credit card company when closing an account.  Maintain only one credit card account, if possible.  Closely monitor billing statements and immediately report any inappropriate billing. 

    Remove your name from solicitation lists: File formal requests to have your name and address removed from mail and telephone solicitation lists. Written requests can be sent to:

    Do not release information by phone or Internet: Don't give credit card numbers or other personal information over the phone or Internet unless you initiated the contact and you have a business relationship with the company. 

    Carefully select and closely guard your passwords: Your mother's maiden name is not a protected password. Identity thieves can easily obtain a maiden name from a birth certificate, which is a public record. Do not use your phone numbers or address numbers as passwords. Do not keep passwords in things such as a planner or purse and do not share passwords with others. If possible, change passwords annually.

    Shred everything: Before discarding any documents which list personal information, shred them. Examples include:

    • pre-approved credit applications

    • canceled checks

    • payroll check stubs

    • credit card receipts

    • mail order offers

    • any other personal information

    Conduct annual credit report checks: Order a biannual credit report from each of the three national credit-reporting agencies. These reports list personal data, including loans and brokerage accounts. If your identity is stolen, credit bureaus suggest installing a fraud alert on all your credit files. This should prompt creditors to call you before they open a new account. Also, file a police report any time you are a fraud or theft victim. Copies of your credit report can be obtained online or using the phone: