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September 11, 2017

Identity Theft Part 2: Prevention

In an August 28 post, I wrote about the growing problem of identity theft. Criminals can be a determined lot, and no single tactic is 100 percent perfect. Still, there are a number of measures you can take to reduce your and your family's risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.

These tactics include:

  • Contact the three major credit bureaus and request the creation of a credit file of any minor children and then place a "freeze" on the credit record. The Social Security numbers of minors are a favorite target in identity theft schemes since years go by before children reach majority age and apply for credit. Unfortunately, no federal law addresses a credit freeze capability for minors, so the ability to do so varies with each state, as do any applicable fees.
  • You should consider placing a credit security freeze on your account, too. Such a freeze blocks access to your credit file without your permission. Again, the requirements and fees, as well as the process for removing a freeze (permanently or temporarily) vary with each state.
  • Take advantage of reviewing your credit report once a year at no charge with all of the major credit bureaus to spot any accounts that may have been opened without your knowledge. There are a number of companies offering to help you review your credit report (sometimes for a fee), but you should go to the official site annually to access your reports at no charge.
  • Secure your Social Security number and provide it only to third parties when absolutely necessary. You should not carry it with you in case your wallet or purse is lost or stolen.
  • Promptly review account statements including utility bills to verify transactions to ensure that account information such as contact email address and phone numbers have not been altered.
  • Collect your mail daily and place delivery holds on mail when you will be away from home for three or more days.
  • Destroy any credit offers you do not plan to accept. If you do not wish to receive prescreened credit and insurance offers, you can opt out by calling (888) 567-8688 or visiting
  • Shred other documents containing personal or financial information to prevent criminals going through your garbage to find such information.

We hope this information will be helpful in stemming the growing tide of identity fraud in this country. If you have other suggestions, please share them.

Photo of David Lott By David Lott, a payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed


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