You protect your wallet, lock your car, and hide your jewelry. Are you as careful with your identity?
Identity theft will cost you money and time. It can take months or even years to straighten out your records and rebuild your credit rating. Do everything you can to guard against identity theft. Here are some tips on how to do it:
Guard your Social Security number
Don’t carry your Social Security card with you.
Don’t put your Social Security number on your driver's license or on bank checks. Don’t write it on checks, or on questionnaires you may fill out. Legitimate requests for Social Security numbers are usually related to financial and credit accounts and for employment. If someone asks for your Social Security number, ask the reason for the request.
For more information on uses and security issues of Social Security numbers, read My Social Security number: How Secure Is It? from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
Pick passwords carefully
Avoid using passwords that are easy to guess (such as your pet's name, your birthdate, or consecutive numbers or letters).
Use a mix of letters, numbers and special characters that is special to you but not obvious.
Pay attention to your mail and trash
Shred all documents which contain personally identifiable information such as your Social Security number and your bank and credit card account numbers. This includes documents you fill out such as applications, insurance forms, and health forms, as well as mail you receive like credit offers and bank statements.
Check your credit reports for unauthorized activity
The three national credit bureaus are required to give you a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months at your request. To order your copy, visit AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll free 877-322-8228.
Use common sense
- Be careful when purchasing items online. Make sure the site is secure before giving credit card information. Secure sites will start with ‘https’ and will show a padlock icon somewhere on the page (the location depends on your browser).
- Do not sign up for unfamiliar contests. Identity thieves may create phony promotions to capture your personal information.
- Be wary of telephone solicitors. Do not provide personal information unless you initiated the call.
For further recommendations, visit How to Keep Your Personal Information Secure at the Federal Trade Commission.
See how Sallie Mae protects your information: Read Avoid Online Fraud and our privacy policies.