Take smart precautions
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Before throwing out any sensitive documents, shred them. If you don’t own a shredder, use a shredding service; many office supply stores and shipping or printing businesses offer this. A cross-cut shredder is more secure that a strip shredder since it cuts the paper into countless pieces and can’t be reconstructed.
Clean out your wallet. Carry only what you need – your driver’s license, debit card and credit card. Never carry your social security card in your wallet. This will make it easier to close and restore your accounts if your wallet is lost or stolen.
Keep a copy of all important financial contact information in your records, including all the 800-numbers on the backs of your debit and credit cards. Store this info somewhere secure, not in your wallet.
Keep private information private. Don’t post your address or phone number on social media sites. All it takes is a few pieces of information for a thief to steal your identity and account information.
Consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service through one of the major credit reporting agencies. If they detect any suspicious activity, you’ll be contacted right away.
What if your identity is stolen?
Place a fraud alert with one of the three credit agencies; whichever one you choose will inform the other two. A fraud alert will make it harder for someone to open new accounts in your name.
If a physical theft took place – for example, if your home or car was broken into – file a report with your local police department.
Contact the financial institutions for any accounts that may have been compromised, including credit card companies, banks or credit unions.
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
For more info on what to do, both immediately and down the road, visit the FTC consumer section on identity theft
. In addition to general advice, they also speak to identity theft incidents affecting children, medical records and taxes.