While we cannot prevent identity theft entirely, the Better Business Bureau, along with many other financial institutions have some tips to minimize our risks:
Before revealing any personal information, find out how it will be used and whether it will be shared with others.
Pay attention to your billing cycles. Contact your creditors immediately if your bill does not show up on time.
Minimize the number of credit cards you carry; only carry the ones you need.
Guard your mail from theft. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office.
Keep items with personal information in a safe place. Shred or tear up your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, bank checks, and statements that you are discarding, expired charge cards, and credit offers you get in the mail.
Do not carry your Social Security card; leave it in a secure place. Give out your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other forms of identification when possible.
Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus at least once a year. Review the reports to make sure they are accurate and include only the activities you have authorized.
Do not be a victim of phishing which is when thieves send e-mails that look as if they come from legitimate companies requesting certain personal information. Never provide personal information such as Social Security, credit card, and bank account numbers or user names and passwords to these e-mails. Be very suspicious of e-mails that were sent to you unsolicited.
If you are shopping online, make sure the Web site is secure. Sites that have technology to secure transactions will have "https" instead of "http" in their web address on the page that asks for credit information. Another way to tell if the site is secure is if you see an icon of a locked padlock which is usually at the bottom of the screen.
Write "check photo ID" in ink on the back of your credit cards near your signature. This will alert the store clerk to check the credit card against your photo identification.
If you still use your Social Security number as your driver's license number, get it changed to a generic number.
Be careful to protect yourself while shopping in malls and stores. Do not leave purses or wallets unattended or in easy places on your person to pick. Watch for people standing nearby with a cell phone with a camera. With camera cell phones available now, someone can easily take a clear picture of the information on your credit card. Block your ATM transactions with your body so no one can see your PIN number.
Immediately open your credit card statements and check for unfamiliar purchases. Keep your credit card receipts in one place and cross check them against your monthly statement. Shred the statement and receipts when you are through with them.
Do not give out information to companies that should already have that information. For example, your bank should never call you asking for your checking account number. They have that information.
Commit all passwords and personal identification numbers to memory. Be creative when you select a password.