How to prevent identity theft

Identity theft is a serious crime that occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as your name, social security number, or credit card information, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. It can have serious consequences, including financial losses, damaged credit, and a loss of privacy. It is important to take steps to prevent identity theft and to protect your personal information.

Protect your personal information.

Be careful about giving out your personal information, especially over the phone or online. Do not give out your social security number, credit card information, or other sensitive information unless you are sure it is a legitimate request. Use strong and unique passwords for all of your accounts, and do not share your passwords with anyone. It is also a good idea to use two-factor authentication whenever possible. Keep your personal information safe by shredding documents that contain sensitive information before you throw them away, and by locking your mail and financial documents in a safe place. Use a firewall and antivirus software to protect your computer from online threats, and be careful about the websites you visit and the emails you open.

Monitor your accounts and credit report.

Regularly check your bank and credit card statements to make sure there are no unauthorized charges or transactions. Monitor your credit report for any unusual activity, such as accounts you did not open or inquiries from lenders you did not apply with. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once a year at Consider using a credit monitoring service to alert you to any changes in your credit report.

Use security measures when shopping online.

Use secure websites when shopping online, and look for the "https" in the website address and the lock icon. Use a credit card instead of a debit card when shopping online, as credit cards offer more protection against fraud. Do not save your credit card information on online shopping sites, and log out of your account when you are finished shopping.

Be cautious with emails and social media.

Do not open emails or click on links from unknown senders, as they may contain viruses or phishing scams. Be careful about what you post on social media, as scammers can use this information to answer security questions or to impersonate you. Use privacy settings on social media to control who can see your information.

Use caution when disposing of personal devices.

When disposing of old phones, tablets, or computers, make sure to erase all personal information from them. This can usually be done through the device's settings menu. Consider using a professional service to securely erase the data from your device.

Use a security freeze.

A security freeze allows you to restrict access to your credit report, which makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. To place a security freeze on your credit report, you will need to contact each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) individually. There may be a fee to place a security freeze, but some states offer free security freezes to victims of identity theft.

Consider identity theft protection services.

Identity theft protection services can monitor your personal information and alert you to any potential identity theft. They may also offer services such as credit monitoring and identity restoration. It is important to research and compare different identity theft protection services before signing up, as some may offer more comprehensive protection than others.