Safety Tips That Protect Your Identity

Consumers who take precautionary steps to protect themselves and their identity, and are proactive in their approach to combat identity fraud, are less likely to have their personal information stolen and misused.

Javelin Strategy & Research recommends that consumers follow a three-step approach—Prevention, Detection, Resolution™ -- to minimize their risk and impact of identity fraud.

1. Keep Personal Data Private

  • Secure your personal and financial records using a password on your computer or mobile phone.
  • Lock your PCs and mobile devices at home, at work, as some cases of fraud were perpetrated by friends and coworkers.
  • Update your PCs and mobile devices with the latest security software.
  • On your social networking profiles, do not reveal any personal information that your bank or other company would use to confirm your identity (such as mother’s maiden name, place of birth, name of pet, etc.).
  • Do not use public Wi-Fi hotspots when logging into your bank, paying for purchases online or sending over any other personal or financial information.

2. Have unique passwords that you change often

Javelin found consumers use only 4 separate passwords to access their 9 online accounts consumers. With common passwords being shared across accounts, if 1 password is compromised, fraudsters could have access to more than 1 account

  • Have unique passwords for each account, especially those with sensitive financial information
  • Change your password every 6 months, if possible
  • Use a combination of letters, numbers, symbols and upper and lower case.
  • Don’t use the common password “password”

3. Just say No to SSN
  • Ask: Who is requesting the information? Why do they need it? How is the information being used?
    1. It is okay to say “NO”.
  • If an organization asks you for your Social Security number to validate your identity, request another question instead.
  • Ask your bank to place a note on your account that you will never provide your SSN to verify your identity. That will flag when a fraudster tries to use your SNN.
  • If volunteering information, ask yourself if you have more to gain or more to lose by sharing personal and unnecessary details.

4. Be Proactive

In 2013, 34% of fraud was detected by the victims who were actively protecting themselves. By monitoring accounts online at bank and credit card websites, consumers can more quickly detect if they are a victim of identity fraud and stop it early.

  • Monitor bank and credit card accounts at-least-weekly via online, mobile, ATM, or touch-tone banking.
  • Sign up for alerts for all your financial accounts (banks, credit cards, etc.)  Enroll in alerts, sent to your mobile phone and/or email account, about any changes to your account, personal information (address or email address), and any transactions. The most common method for fraudsters to take over a victim's account is by changing the physical address.
  •  Free credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus (staggered quarterly for year-round monitoring) are available yearly through or 877-322-8228.

TIP: By contacting a different one of the three credit bureaus every four months, you can stagger your free reports to review your credit three times a year at no charge.

  • Look into services such as ID protection services, credit monitoring, fraud alerts, and credit freezes that provide extra security and convenience for those who don’t want to personally monitor their information.   These services can detect potentially fraudulent information from credit reports, public records, and online activity that are difficult to track on your own.

5. Take Any Data Breach Notification Seriously
  • If you receive a data breach notification, take it very seriously. 1 in 3 consumers who received a data breach letter became a victim of fraud the same year. This is important! Many who are alerted fail to take action. We recommend you take the following steps:
    • Confirm the letter is legitimate
    • Take advantage of any free protection services that are offered by a financial institution or retailer
    • Place a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert requires lenders to make sure it is actually you applying for credit.
    • Closely monitor your accounts for any suspicious activity and charges.
6. Don’t Wait. Report Problems Immediately. A fast response can increase your chance of stopping the fraudsters before they have stolen a large amount of money.
  • Immediately contact your bank and credit card companies. 
    • If your bank provides fraud resolution specialists, ask for their assistance to ensure the fraud is resolved.
  • Report all lost or stolen cards and/or fraudulent transactions immediately as the timing of your report of the loss or unauthorized transactions may impact the amount that you are liable for under the law.
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission to report incidents of suspected fraud or identity theft at or call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338).
  • Consider enrolling in a high-quality ID protection service. Victims who find that their driver’s license numbers or SSNs have been compromised should consider enrolling in ID protection services that monitor credit reports as well as non-credit-related databases for unauthorized use of stolen information.