Identity Theft Prevention & Tips

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Secure Personal Information


At home:

  • Take precautions if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having repair work done on/in your home.
  • Lock personal information in a filing cabinet, safe, or bank safety deposit box.
  • Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office, rather than in an unsecured mailbox.
  •  Promptly remove mail from your mailbox.
  • Tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards that you're discarding, and credit offers you get in the mail.
  • Shredder should be “cross-cut” style.



In your vehicle:

  • DO NOT leave sensitive information in your vehicle!!!
  • If unavoidable, make sure and HIDE your purse or wallet out of plain view.
  • Keep your vehicle locked at all times, when you are away from it.


Financial Instruments:

  •  When ordering new checks, pick them up from the bank instead of having them mailed to your home mailbox. Use a PO Box for the address (if available). Don’t pre-print your SS or DL number on the checks. Don’t write full account numbers on them.
  •  Credit and Debit Cards: passwords should use letters AND numbers. PIN’s and passwords should be memorized!!
  • Don’t sign the back of your credit or debit cards, instead; write “Photo ID Required”.
  • Review your financial statements regularly. Check for fraudulent activity, such as purchases or debits you did not make.


On the phone / mail / email:

  • Don’t give out personal information unless you’ve initiated contact or are sure you know who you're dealing with.
  • Be cautious when responding to promotional offers.
  • Identity thieves may create phony promotional offers to get you to give them your personal information.
  • Before you share any information, confirm that you are dealing with a legitimate organization.
  • Check an organization's Web site by typing its URL in the address line.
  • Or call customer service using the number listed on your account statement or in the telephone book.


In your wallet or purse:

  • Don't carry your SSN card
  • Leave it in a secure place.
  • Give your SSN only when absolutely necessary.
  • Ask to use other types of identifiers.
  • If your health insurance company uses your SSN as your policy number, ask them to change it.
  • Carry only the identification information and credit and debit cards that you'll actually need when you go out.
  • Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at all times.


On your computer

Basic Tips

  • Install virus protection software, patches for your operating system.
  • These all need to be updated REGULARLY with the most up to date security features.
  • Do not open files sent to you by strangers, or click on hyperlinks or download programs from people you don't know.
  • Opening a file could expose your system to malware such as a virus, spyware, worm, Botnet, or Trojan; which could capture your passwords or any other information as you type it into the keyboard.
  • Use a firewall program to stop uninvited access to your computer.
  • Without it, “crackers” can take over your computer, access the personal information stored on it, and use it to commit crimes.


Use a secure browser

  • Software that encrypts or scrambles information you send over the Internet; to guard your online transactions.
  • Be sure your browser has the most up-to-date encryption capabilities by using the latest version available from the manufacturer.
  • When submitting information, look for the "lock" icon on the browser's status bar, and “https” in the address line, to be sure your information is secure during transmission.
  • Try not to store financial information on your laptop unless absolutely necessary.
  • If you do, use a strong password a combination of letters, (upper and lower case), numbers and symbols.
  • Before you dispose of a computer, delete all the personal information it had stored.
  • Use a "wipe" utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive. Deleting files using the keyboard or mouse commands or reformatting your hard drive may not be enough because the files may stay on the computer's hard drive, where they may be retrieved easily.


Look for Web site privacy policies

  • They should answer questions about maintaining accuracy, access, security, and control of personal information collected by the site, how the information will be used, and whether it will be provided to third parties. If you don't see a privacy policy - or if you can't understand it - consider doing business elsewhere.


Use Unique or Unpredictable Passwords:

  • Place unidentifiable passwords on all of your accounts -- your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information such as your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security Number (SSN) or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.


Educate Yourself on Security Procedures Outside of the Home:

  • Ask about information security procedures in your workplace or at businesses, doctor’s offices or other institutions that collect your personal identifying information.
  • Find out who has access to your personal information, and verify that it is handled securely.
  • Ask about disposal procedures for your records.
  • Find out if your information will be shared with anyone else. If so, ask how your information can be kept confidential.



Check Your Credit Report:

  • One of the most important ways you can protect yourself against Identity Theft is to check your credit report status often.
  • Under federal law (The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act – FACTA), you are entitled to one free credit report per year: contact
  • If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you can request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit report to signal this to prospective users of that report.

Click here for a full list of helpful contacts including: telephone, mail, and spam email "OPT OUT" numbers,  and contacts for all three credit bureaus.


For more information, Click Here to Email the Crime Prevention Unit or call (361)485-3808.


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