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Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Practical Tips for Keeping Your Financial Information Safe

When someone takes your identity, it can be used to steal money, commit fraud, or perform a variety of other crimes in your name. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity thieves can "drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance." They can even get your tax refund.

Your identity can be stolen offline, but you may be vulnerable to online theft, as well. However, there are ways to protect yourself. Take the time to adopt a few strategies to make sure that you’re not a victim of identity theft.

Watch the Mailbox

Don’t leave sensitive documents in an unlocked mailbox. If your mailbox doesn’t lock, remove your mail daily and take outgoing, sensitive mail to a post office or postal mailbox.

Click with Caution

If you don’t know who sent you a link, be careful before you click. Emails insisting you change passwords or adjust account information may be trying to trick you into opening a virtual backdoor into your computer. Only open emails from trusted sources, and make sure you have antivirus and antispyware on your computer to protect yourself. If you use online banking or pay bills online, type known web addresses into your address bar and never set computers or smartphones to remember or fill in usernames and passwords for secure accounts.

Shred, Shred, Shred

Always destroy sensitive paperwork before you dispose of it. If you need to trash documents with financial, personal, or identifying data, shredding provides an important extra step of security. Shred the junk mail that touts preapproved credit offers so others don't take it and open accounts in your name.

Phone a Friend, Not a Thief

Be wary of anyone calling you and asking for personal details. If you receive a call from someone who says they need your financial or personal information, check the source. Be very selective when discussing account numbers, personal details, and other key data points over the phone. In many cases, they are not who they say they are. It’s best not to even answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number or the caller ID. You could always listen to the message and call them back later if it’s someone you know, like Freedom Mortgage!

One Card for Buying Online

Designate one credit card for all your online shopping, so if a scammer gets into your accounts, they only have access to a single card and won’t have multiple entry points into your finances. Also, try to use credit cards for online purchases, rather than debit cards. Debit cards often have fewer fraud protections, compared to credit cards. Purchases made with debit cards withdraw cash from your bank account, and unauthorized use of your debit card can leave you short of money you may need for other bills.

Check Your Statements

Keep an eye on your statements to double-check your purchase history. Make reviewing your monthly statements a habit. When you do this, odd purchases or charges may stand out so you can report fraudulent activity as soon as possible.

Switch Up Your Login Information

Remembering more passwords makes your information more secure. If you use a single password for all your online accounts and profiles, you are very vulnerable. In addition to complex passwords, make sure you are using distinct login information on different websites. Just one password for the sake of convenience means that if someone decodes it, they’ll have access to everything.

Enable Two-step Verification

You can very easily double up on security to avoid headaches later. It can be a pain to use multifactor authentication when you’re logging into an online account or profile. However, this extra step provides a useful and much-needed barrier between your accounts and online thieves.

Extra Emails Eliminate Blind Spots

One email address for everything can be one big vulnerability. If you have two-factor verification turned on, add an extra layer of security by constructing more than one email account. That way, if a scammer accesses your email, they won’t be able to reset or lock all of your account information.

Keep It All to Yourself

Never share your passwords. As tempting as it can be, remember that the person you trust may not be as concerned with online security. If their devices are exposed to thieves or fraudulent transactions, they might also expose your personal information.

Check Your Credit Report

Visit to obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies every 12 months. Check your three credit reports for any suspicious activity, such as unusual or inaccurate names or addresses or any unfamiliar inquiries. Disputing inaccuracies on your annual credit reports is your right. You can find free sample letters to help you dispute inaccurate claims at by typing "sample dispute letter" into the search box.

Last reviewed and updated March 2024 by Freedom Mortgage.

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