Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

March 5, 2015 Blog

Protect Yourself against

Identity Theft

February 24, 2015


Whether they’re snatching your purse, diving into your

dumpster, stealing your mail, or hacking into your

computer, they’re out to get you. Who are they?

Identity thieves.


Identity thieves can empty your bank account, max

out your credit cards, open new accounts in your

name, and purchase furniture, cars, and even homes

on the basis of your credit history. If they give your

personal information to the police during an arrest

and then don’t show up for a court date, you may be

subsequently arrested and jailed.


And what will you get for their efforts? You’ll get the

headache and expense of cleaning up the mess they

leave behind.


You may never be able to completely prevent your

identity from being stolen, but here are some steps

you can take to help protect yourself from becoming a



Check yourself out


It’s important to review your credit report periodically.

Check to make sure that all the information contained

in it is correct, and be on the lookout for any

fraudulent activity.


You may get your credit report for free once a year.

To do so, visit


If you need to correct any information or dispute any

entries, contact the three national credit reporting

agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.


Secure your number


Your most important personal identifier is your Social

Security number (SSN). Guard it carefully. Never

carry your Social Security card with you unless you’ll

need it. The same goes for other forms of

identification (for example, health insurance cards)

that display your SSN. If your state uses your SSN as

your driver’s license number, request an alternate



Don’t have your SSN preprinted on your checks, and

don’t let merchants write it on your checks. Don’t give

it out over the phone unless you initiate the call to an

organization you trust. Ask the three major credit

reporting agencies to truncate it on your credit

reports. Try to avoid listing it on employment

applications; offer instead to provide it during a job



Don’t leave home with it


Most of us carry our checkbooks and all of our credit

cards, debit cards, and telephone cards with us all the

time. That’s a bad idea; if your wallet or purse is

stolen, the thief will have a treasure chest of new toys

to play with.


Carry only the cards and/or checks you’ll need for any

one trip. And keep a written record of all your account

numbers, credit card expiration dates, and the

telephone numbers of the customer service and fraud

departments in a secure place–at home.


Keep your receipts


When you make a purchase with a credit or debit

card, you’re given a receipt. Don’t throw it away or

leave it behind; it may contain your credit or debit

card number. And don’t leave it in the shopping bag

inside your car while you continue shopping; if your

car is broken into and the item you bought is stolen,

your identity may be as well.


Save your receipts until you can check them against

your monthly credit card and bank statements, and

watch your statements for purchases you didn’t make.


When you toss it, shred it


Before you throw out any financial records such as

credit or debit card receipts and statements,


cancelled checks, or even offers for credit you receive

in the mail, shred the documents, preferably with a

cross-cut shredder. If you don’t, you may find the

panhandler going through your dumpster was looking

for more than discarded leftovers.


Keep a low profile


The more your personal information is available to

others, the more likely you are to be victimized by

identity theft. While you don’t need to become a

hermit in a cave, there are steps you can take to help

minimize your exposure:


telemarketers, list your telephone number with the

Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call

Registry by registering online at


and e-mailing lists, as well as most telemarketing

lists register online with the Direct Marketing

Association at


prepared by the three national consumer reporting

agencies, register online at


investment firm, insurance company, and credit

card companies, opt out of allowing them to share

your financial information with other organizations


and address removed from the telephone book

and reverse directories


Take a byte out of crime


Whatever else you may want your computer to do,

you don’t want it to inadvertently reveal your personal

information to others. Take steps to help assure that

this won’t happen.


Install a firewall to prevent hackers from obtaining

information from your hard drive or hijacking your

computer to use it for committing other crimes. This is

especially important if you use a high-speed

connection that leaves you continuously connected to

the Internet. Moreover, install virus protection

software and update it on a regular basis.


Try to avoid storing personal and financial information

on a laptop; if it’s stolen, the thief may obtain more

than your computer. If you must store such

information on your laptop, make things as difficult as

possible for a thief by protecting these files with a

strong password–one that’s six to eight characters

long, and that contains letters (upper and lower case),

numbers, and symbols.


“If a stranger calls, don’t answer.” Opening e-mails

from people you don’t know, especially if you

download attached files or click on hyperlinks within

the message, can expose you to viruses, infect your

computer with “spyware” that captures information by

recording your keystrokes, or lead you to “spoofs”

(websites that replicate legitimate business sites)

designed to trick you into revealing personal

information that can be used to steal your identity.


If you wish to visit a business’s legitimate website,

use your stored bookmark or type the URL address

directly into the browser. If you provide personal or

financial information about yourself over the Internet,

do so only at secure websites; to determine if a site is

secure, look for a URL that begins with “https”

(instead of “http”) or a lock icon on the browser’s

status bar.


And when it comes time to upgrade to a new

computer, remove all your personal information from

the old one before you dispose of it. Using the

“delete” function isn’t sufficient to do the job; overwrite

the hard drive by using a “wipe” utility program. The

minimal cost of investing in this software may save

you from being wiped out later by an identity thief.


Be diligent


As the grizzled duty sergeant used to say on a

televised police drama, “Be careful out there.” The

identity you save may be your own.


Registered Representative, Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC.

Investment Advisor Representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge does not offer tax advice. Cambridge and Independence Capital Financial Partners are not affiliated.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2015