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Identity theft is a crime on the rise with 8.9 million victims in 2006, according to a Javelin/Better Business Bureau Survey. Here are some quick prevention tips from experts, police officers and past victims.
- Catalog Your ID Info
- IDs: Carry Smart
- Starter Tips: IDs, Credit Cards
- More ID Ideas

Click here for helpful forms related to this topic!

Catalog Your ID Info

  1. Photocopy every card (credit, debit, all insurance, Social Security, all IDs, and driver’s license) in your wallet, front and back.
  2. On the photocopy, write the card’s toll-free help number by the front of each card.
  3. Keep a complete up-to-date folder in a safe place at home and at work, noting the most recent date the information was compiled.
  4. In addition to your photocopies, click here for a save-able PDF Wallet/Purse content checklist.. Open the form with Acrobat Reader, fill it in, save to your desktop and print.

    Acrobat Reader is FREE and you can download the latest version here.
  5. Keep these copies in your Master Information Box, a box which contains copies of your most important documents and records, photos and contact information.

IDs: Carry Smart

  1. Before you head out the door, take out “barely used” credit cards and store them in a safe place at home.
    • Do not carry any IDs you do not need unless it is necessary (birth certificate, Social Security card, passport).
  2. Clean out your purse or wallet every month. This limits unnecessary data and you’ll have a better idea of losses to report to an insurance agent in case of theft. (Remember to update your folders!)
  3. Don’t keep copies of your debit/ATM card PINs or receipts in your wallet, purse or vehicle.
  4. If you carry a PDA, make sure it’s password-locked when not in use.
  5. WHN TIP: Lost Cell Phone?

    If you lose your PDA or cell phone, you'll lose all your contacts and information. Write down phone numbers and important info from your PDA, cell phone and other devices. Make a copy and keep it in a safe place at home and at the office.

    WHN TIP: Cell Phone Serial Number

    If your phone is stolen, call your phone company and provide them with the phone's serial number. They will block your handset so even if the thief changes the SIM card, your phone will be totally useless. Go here to find your phone's serial number.

  6. Keep handbags closed, with one arm across it or with the strap crossing your body. Wear the strap under your jacket or sweater.

    WHN TIP: Short Errand?

    If it's a quick stop, leave your handbag at home and carry only essentials in a pocket.

  7. Keep an eye on your purse or wallet. Don’t leave it in a grocery cart, a changing room or on your work desk.

Starter Tips: IDs and Credit Cards

  1. Don’t leave ingoing or outgoing mail in your mailbox overnight or on weekends. If possible, get a post office box or a locked mailbox.
  2. Destroy all identifying or sensitive information you don’t need with a shredder.

    WHN TIP: Wristbands

    Hospital wristbands hold identifying information. Don't throw it into a public trash bin - cut it up into tiny pieces at home, then throw it away.

  3. Be careful when using ATMs and phone cards. “Shoulder Surfers” can get your PIN and access to your accounts.
  4. Place strong passwords (both letters and numbers) on computers as well as bank, investment and credit card accounts.
  5. Make sure your bank, credit card companies, etc. have your current contact information. If unusual activity appears on your account, companies may attempt to contact you and verify the activity. If your number is disconnected or your address is incorrect, it may be too late to remedy the problem.
  6. Ask all financial institutions, doctor's offices, etc., what they do with your private information and make sure that they shred it and protect it. Tell them why.
  7. Check your credit reports once a year from any one of the three credit reporting agencies listed below, agencies will charge a nominal fee to send you a report. To order your report, agencies will charge a fee. If you see anything that appears fraudulent, immediately put a fraud alert on your reports by phone and follow up in writing. Identify the problems item by item with a copy of the credit report and send the letter "Return Receipt Requested."
  8. Credit Cards
    • Do not put your address, telephone number, or driver’s license number on a credit card receipt.
    • Match credit card receipts against monthly bills and check financial statements for accuracy. If there is anything that you do not recognize, call the credit grantor to verify that it is truly yours.
    • If possible, get credit cards with your picture on them.
    • Cancel credit cards you don't use or have not used in 6 months. Thieves could use these very easily; open credit is a prime target.
    • Sign new credit cards before someone else does.
    • Don’t leave receipts behind at ATMs, on counters at financial institutions, or at gasoline pumps.
  9. Checks
    • Get all of your checks delivered to your bank or your work address, not to your home address.
    • Do not put your telephone number on your checks, instead use your work number and address.
    • Don’t put account numbers on the outside of envelopes or on your checks.
    • Do not put checks in the mail from your home mailbox. Drop them off at a U.S. mailbox or post office.
  10. Online Security
    • Do not input your credit card or other financial account numbers at a Web site unless it offers a secure transaction. A secure or “encrypted” transaction will have these two features:
      • An icon of a lock appears in the bottom strip of the Web browser page.
      • The URL address for the Web page changes from “http” to “https” for the page at which you input the personal data.
      • Online shopping? Read ID Safety.
    • If you get an e-mail asking you to go to a site and update your information, don’t do it. Internet thieves use this technique (often called "phishing") to gather personal and financial information. Instead, call the company that allegedly sent the email to see if they really sent it. (Don't call the company using the phone number provided in the suspicious email).

    WHN TIP: Reader Tip - Twice as Nice

    Consider having two e-mail addresses — one for personal use and another for Web site promotions and consumer activities. It’ll be a lot easier to sort through the spam.
    Erik, Minnesota

    WHN TIP: Reader Tip - Online Security

    Have a discussion with your family about online security. Consider setting guidelines about what information is allowed to be entered online.
    Erik, Minnesota

More ID Ideas

  1. Buy a crosscut-type shredder and shred old credit card receipts, mailers and financial info in your name (preapproved credit applications) anything that gives access to private information.
  2. Be careful of “dumpster diving.”
    • Shred - don't throw - anything that could “become” you - items with identifiers (Social Security number, address, account numbers, etc.)
  3. For a list of junk mail/telemarketing opt-out Web sites and programs, go to Identity Theft - Links.
  4. If you get a call at home or the office from a stranger, never give out personal information (SSN or bank account numbers) even if the caller says he is from a legitimate agency. If you didn't start the call, don’t give out the information.
    • If said stranger says they are a credit grantor of yours, hang up and call them back at the number that you know is the true number. Provide only information that you believe is absolutely necessary.
  5. Guard your Social Security Number (SSN)
    • Do not put it on checks or credit receipts.
    • If a business requests your SSN, give them an alternate ID number and tell them why. If a government agency requests your SSN, there must be a privacy notice accompanying the request.
    • When you are asked to identify yourself at schools, employers, or any other kind of institution, ask to have an alternative to your SSN. Unfortunately, your health insurance carrier often uses your SSN as your identification number. Try to change that if you can. If not, be sure that any medical paperwork that lists that number is shredded before discarding.
  6. Identity Theft Insurance
    • According to the Insurance Information Institute, “Identity theft insurance provides reimbursement to crime victims for the cost of restoring their identity and repairing credit reports. Some companies now include it as part of their homeowner’s insurance policy. Others sell it as either a stand alone policy or as an endorsement to a homeowners or renters insurance policy.” Check with your insurance provider to see what products they offer, what your options are and how much it will cost.
    • Always ask your insurance provider for costs of coverage and discuss in detail the list of things you think are covered under this policy to be sure that what you think is covered actually is.
  7. If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, read our Help - Identity Theft section. You can also contact the Federal Trade Commission. They have counselors to help. Call the FTC Identity Theft Hotline: 1-877-IDTHEFT.

Thank you ...

A special thank you to the industry professionals, lawyers, insurance agents, first responders and people who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.


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