How can I protect myself from identity theft?

Here are steps you can take to protect your personal information and help prevent identity theft:

  • Keep your financial information private. Don't give out financial information such as checking account and credit card numbers--and especially your Social Security Number--on the phone unless you initiate the call and know the person or organization you're dealing with.
  • Be alert to telephone and e-mail scams. If you are called, be wary about providing personal information. Notify the appropriate financial institutions of any suspicious phone inquiries made in their name asking for account information to verify a statement or award a prize.
  • Register with the FTC's national do-not-call program to reduce your telemarketing calls.
  • Michigan consumers who have access to an email address are able to sign up, at no cost - register here. The toll-free number to call for registration is 1-888-382-1222. You can also register your cell phone number.
  • Carefully and promptly review records, especially your credit card statements, bank, and mortgage statements, for unauthorized charges or fraudulent use. In addition, scrutinize your local, long distance, cellular, and other utility bills each month. Report, in writing, any unauthorized uses.
  • Shred or destroy all mail and other documents containing your personal information - credit receipts, bank statements, medical documents, utility bills, pre-approved credit offers, etc. - before discarding them to prevent "dumpster divers" from fishing your valuable personal information out of the trash.
  • To stop receiving pre-approved credit card offers in the mail, call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567- 8688) or click here to opt-out. Your registration is valid for 5 years.
  • To manage the mail you or anyone in your household receives, register here through the Junk Mail Direct Marketing Association's website. Your registration is valid for 5 years.
  • Keep sensitive documents in a safe and secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having service work done in your home.
  • Cancel all credit cards that you do not use. These account numbers are listed on your credit report and may be stolen by ID thieves. Request confirmation of cancellation in writing from your credit card issuer.
  • Don't put outgoing mail in or on your mailbox. Instead, drop your mail into a secure, official Postal Service collection box.
  • Tell banks, insurers, and other financial institutions not to share your customer information. Under federal law, they are required to honor your request.
  • Limit the information printed on your personal checks. Your middle name, phone number, SSN, and driver's license number can be omitted.
  • Keep a secure master list or photocopies of all important identification and account numbers -driver's license, social security card, credit cards, bank and utility account numbers, expiration dates, and the phone numbers of the customer service fraud departments of your card issuers. Keep this list in a safe, accessible place, such as a safe or safe deposit box - and not your purse, wallet, or car - so that you can respond quickly in case your identification is lost or stolen.
  • Memorize your passwords or keep them in a safe location, such as a safe deposit box. Don't record them on anything you carry with you in your purse, wallet, or car. Never keep passwords or PINs near cards or documents identifying the account they belong to, unless the information is stored in a safe deposit box or other secure place.
  • Review your credit report. Periodically contact the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) to review your file and make certain the information is correct. (See the Resources page.)
  • Consider your computer: Regularly update your computer's virus protection software and don't download files from strangers or click on links from people you don't know. Try not to store financial information on your laptop unless absolutely necessary. Avoid using an automatic log-in feature that saves your user name or password and always log off when you're finished. Shop smartly online. Before shopping, make sure that you are familiar with the company or seller, including their privacy policy. Disclose only necessary personal information, and opt out of information sharing if possible.
  • Don't forget about your mobile phone, iPad, notebook or other device. Be sure to set up passwords on all your mobile devices as well as your computer.