Can your identity be stolen? Yes it can, it can happen to anyone. Identity theft is a growing problem today. The effects that it has on your financial life can range from getting the cheapest auto insurance to getting discount health insurance because it can damage your credit. Since auto insurance companies, your health insurance broker, and many other businesses look at your credit when deciding whether or not to work with you, guarding your identity is also guarding your credit scores.

Let’s take a look at how you can avoid having your identity stolen, the precautions you can take to avoid it and actions you can take if your identity is stolen.

Guarding Your Identity

Step # 1 – How to avoid identity theft:

  • Guard Against Identity TheftGuard your social security number, driver’s license number, bank account and credit card numbers.
  • Do not give your social security out.
  • Always shred any documents that have those numbers on them.
  • Since your trash and even garbage dumps are commonly sorted through for personal billing statements, bank statements and other documents which may contain your personal information, do not just throw these documents into your trash without first shredding them.

Step #2 – Taking precautions:

  • Do not carry your social security card in your wallet or purse since a high percentage of identity theft occurs when purses and wallets are lost or stolen.
  • Do not have your social security number printed on your driver’s license.
  • Never have your social security or driver’s license printed on your personal checks.
  • Instead of having your full name printed on your checks, use your first initial and your last name.
  • When writing checks to pay your credit cards, do not write the entire credit card number on the check. Instead just use the last 4 digits of the credit card number.
  • Keep a list of your credit card company phone numbers and account numbers in a safe place. If your cards are stolen, you will have the numbers to call.
  • Make a copy of all the documents that you have in your wallet. If your wallet is lost or stolen, you will know what you had in your wallet and which credit cards to cancel.
  • Contact your home insurance company, some insurance companies sell fraud alert services.

Step # 3 – Actions to take if your identity is stolen:

  • Call the 3 national Credit Reporting Agencies.
  • Have the Credit Reporting Agencies place a fraud alert on your credit cards.
  • Call the credit card companies immediately to place a timeline on the theft so that you are not held responsible for charges that you did not make.
  • Have the credit card companies cancel the credit cards.
  • Call the Social Security fraud line.
  • File a police report.

Identity theft is real and you need to take it seriously.  If your identity is stolen a lot of damage can be done.  Your credit scores are the first thing that gets damaged; and credit scores affect every aspect of your life.   Employers, landlords, insurance companies, credit reporting agencies and utility companies all look at your credit scores; so guard your credit scores as closely as you guard your identity.

Take the necessary steps to avoid identity theft, the precautions to help avoid it, and be prepared with actions to take just in your identity is stolen.