Preventing Identity Theft

Reduce Your Risk of Identity Theft

Here are some ways you can reduce your risk of identity theft.

  • Never respond to an email asking you to confirm or verify account information, even if it looks official.
  • Don’t give out your credit card number or other personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call and you are sure the company is reputable.
  • Shop online only if the site is secure.
  • Shred financial records, bank statements, credit card bills and pre-approved credit card applications before you throw them away.
  • Reducing the amount of junk mail you receive can help you minimize your risk of identity theft.
    • Opt out of prescreened credit offers at www.optoutprescreen.com.
    • Sign up with the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service to be removed from telemarketer’s mailing lists at www.DMAchoice.org. You have to re-register every three years.
  • Place a "credit security freeze" on your credit file.

Security Data Breach Notices

Sometimes, the risk of identity theft is out of your control. If you receive a “data breach” notification, it means your personal or financial information may have been compromised because a third party’s computer files have been hacked, putting you at risk for identity theft.

  • If the data breach notice offers a period of free credit monitoring, you may wish to sign up for the service.

Credit Security Freeze

A credit security freeze puts a “lock” on your credit file and stops the credit reporting agency from sharing your credit information without your consent.

  • Most businesses will not open new credit or loan accounts without first checking a consumer’s credit history. If your credit files are frozen, even someone who has stolen your name and Social Security number probably will not be able to get new credit in your name.

Even after your file is frozen, it can still be released to your existing creditors or collection agencies acting on their behalf. 

  • You can always order your own credit report, even if your file is frozen.
  • Without a credit freeze, your information is always available to a prospective employer or landlord, certain other businesses, and to government agencies.

A security freeze does not affect or lower your credit score. 

Requesting the Security Freeze

You will need to file a separate request with each of the three consumer reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

It costs $5 for each request. If you are a victim of identity theft, it is free.

You will need to provide your full name, date of birth, social security number and current and previous mailing addresses. You may also be asked to provide a copy of your driver’s license and a recent utility bill.

  • If you are a victim of identity theft, you will also have to provide a copy of the police report or affidavit of identity theft.
  • For identity theft victims, the agencies must place the freeze within 48 hours after receiving the police report or affidavit of identity theft. For all other requests, the freeze must be in place within three business days.

Temporary Lift of the Credit Freeze

If you decide you want to open a new credit account or get a new loan, you can temporarily lift the freeze on your credit file. After you file the security freeze, the consumer reporting agency will send you a Personal Identification Number (PIN) and instructions on how to lift the freeze using your PIN. The fee for lifting the freeze temporarily is $5.00 each time. You must make a separate request and pay a separate fee to each agency.