Julie S. Bettinger

Protecting yourself from identity theft

Protecting your personal information can help reduce your risk of identity theft.

ON YOUR COMPUTER

  • Install a firewall on your computer.
  • Use anti-virus, anti-spam, and anti-spyware software. Keep the software updated.
  • Use parental controls to protect children from unwanted spam and phishing e-mails.
  • Keep your browser updated.
  • Clean the hard drive before discarding any personal computer.

ONLINE

  • Visit a website by hand-entering the web address —or “URL” — yourself into your web browser, not by clicking a link in an email.
  • Check that you use secure websites for sensitive communications or transactions. When entering the URL, look for the “s” in the “https” and the lock icon in the bottom right of the screen.
  • Use strong passwords to protect access to your sensitive information and financial accounts. Do not use easy to guess or easy to obtain personal information, like birthdates or a pet’s name. Change your passwords from time to time.

SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER

  • Ask why someone wants your Social Security number and how it will be protected before deciding to give it out.
  • Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Do not pre-print your Social Security number on your checks or driver’s license, and do not use it on an unsecured website.

STATEMENTS & BILLS

  • Keep confidential documents secure. At home and at work, secure important documents that contain your personal information where they are protected from unwanted view or access.
  • Shred documents containing sensitive information before throwing them out.
  • Check credit reports at least once per year, and before making a major purchase like a home or car. Dispute and remove errors or unknown accounts in the reports.
  • Check statements and bills regularly.
  • Protect your mail.

Do not be intimidated by an email or caller who suggests dire consequences if you do not immediately provide or verify financial information.

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