Even as identity theft becomes more widespread, there are things that you can do today to prevent becoming a victim of criminal activity tomorrow. Take these steps to protect yourself.
Do not give out any personal information over the phone, through the mail (including e-mail) or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact with a trusted or known party.
Monitor your credit report by obtaining a free copy of your report each year.
Buy and use a crosscut shredder for your old bank and credit card statements and pre-approved credit offers.
Stop delivery of most junk mail by writing to the Direct Marketing Association, DMA Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, New York, 10512. Or visit the Direct Marketing Association website where you can fill out an online form to stop most junk mail for a fee.
Minimize what you carry in your wallet to only the cards you actually need.
Make a photocopy of everything you carry in your wallet. Keep it in a safe location in case your wallet is ever lost or stolen.
Ask your bank and credit card companies to send electronic versions of bills and account statements. Review your statements on a regular basis to be sure all charges were made by you. Close any accounts you no longer use.
For more information on how to avoid identity theft, or to report suspicious emails or calls, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338).