Resist the urge to apply for instant store credit cards where you are giving out your personal information to a store clerk. Decline to give your telephone number when asked for it by a sales associate at the cash register. Don't give out any personal information over the telephone. In 80% of the instances where information is requested, all of the information asked for is not needed.
Monitor All Account Statements
Open account statements as soon as they arrive. This includes credit card statements, bank account statements and line of credits. Review the statements for any irregularities, unknown charges, or other issues. Make sure you recognize every transaction on your statements.
Stop having your statements sent to you through the mail where they can be intercepted by an identity thief. Review your accounts and statements online. Use your bank's online bill pay service to pay your bills. A person who monitors their account online only loses $500 on average to identity theft. A person who monitors paper statements loses $4,500 on average to identity theft.
Buy a Safe
Lock up important documents in your house in a safe. Wills, deeds, titles to homes and cars, life insurance policies and any other important documents should behind a lock so that visitors to your home don't have access to the information. Physical paper is 92% of the problem when it comes to identity theft. Also, many victims of identity theft actually know the identity thief.
Shred, Shred, Shred
Shred all documents before throwing them out in the trash. Identity thieves like to go through trash for documents and paper with personal information on it. You should shred old paper statements, ATM receipts, credit card receipts and any other documents that have personal information. Make sure to use a cross cut shredder so that the thief can't put the document back together.
Freeze Your Credit Report
If you are not in the market for new credit, freeze your credit report. It prevents new accounts from being opened up in your name. You can write to each credit bureau requesting the credit report freeze. When you do need to apply for credit in the future, you can "thaw" your credit report for a specific creditor, specific time period or permanently.
Opt Out of Information Sharing
Tell your creditors that you do not want them to share your personal information with affiliates, subsidiaries or other companies that it does business with. Contact the Direct Marketing Association and request that your name be removed from various mail marketing lists. Contact the credit bureaus and have them remove you from their mail and telephone marketing lists. Also, place your telephone numbers on the Do Not Call list.
Visit the Post Office
Put your outgoing mail inside the post office instead of the blue mailbox. At night, identity thieves break into mailbox and steal the mail to obtain personal information. Place any bills or mail with personal information in a mail slot inside the post office.
Passwords Are a Must
Place passwords on all of your accounts with your creditors, the telephone company and the utility company. This prevents anyone else from accessing your account. All make sure that all of your computers and cell phones are password protected to prevent unauthorized access to those devices.
De-Clutter That Wallet
Remove information from your wallet that you do not need to carry with you daily. Take out your social security card and lock it up at home. Remove excess credit cards that you use infrequently. Do not carry your pin # with you in your wallet. Don't carry computer or cell phone passwords with you.
Additional resources provided by the author
Additional information regarding ways to prevent identity theft can be found on the Federal Trade Commission's website.