Identity Theft Prevention

Don't disclose your social security number, your date of birth, your mother's maiden name, your driver's license or state ID number, your e-mail address, account numbers, credit card numbers, or other personal information unless you know who you're giving it to and for what purpose. For example: If a retailer asks to record your social security number or driver's license number on your check, ask why, and consider paying with cash instead of by check; Ask how a prospective employer will handle the personal information on your application; Be aware that identity thieves may call you posing as representatives of banks or governmental workers, contact you with bogus e-mail offers with links to phony Web sites, or send you sweepstakes offers in the mail - all in an effort to trick you into revealing your personal information. Never give out your SSN, account number, or other identifying information to someone who calls you and demands your personal information. If in doubt, find the telephone number of the government office, credit card company, or other business independently - from your monthly account statement or telephone directory - and say you'll call back. If the caller resists your request, hang up. Carefully - and promptly - review records, especially your credit card, bank, and mortgage statements, for unauthorized charges or fraudulent use. In addition, scrutinize your local, long distance, cellular, and other utility bills each month. Report, in writing, any unauthorized uses. Shred or destroy all mail and other documents containing your personal information - credit receipts, bank statements, medical documents, utility bills, pre-approved credit offers, etc. - before discarding them in order to prevent "dumpster divers" from fishing your valuable personal information out of the trash. Keep sensitive documents in a safe and secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having service work done in your home. Cancel all credit cards that you do not use. These account numbers are listed on your credit report and may be stolen by ID thieves. Don't use insecure mailboxes. Never mail personal checks from an unlocked mailbox and make sure your sensitive mail is delivered to a secure mailbox or PO Box at your local post office. To stop receiving pre-approved credit card offers in the mail, call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567- 8688). Register with the FTC's national do-not-call program to reduce your telemarketing calls. Michigan consumers who have access to an e-mail address are able to sign up, at no cost, on the national registry online at The toll-free number to call for registration is 1-888-382-1222. Tell banks, insurers, and other financial institutions not to share your customer information. Under federal law, they are required to honor your request. However, the law does not prevent these institutions from sharing your information with sister companies, subsidiaries, or companies with whom they have a "joint marketing agreement." Limit the information printed on your personal checks - your middle name, phone number, SSN, and driver's license number; and if you have an established account, even your address can be left off your checks when you order new checks from your financial institution. Keep a secure master list or photocopies of all important identification and account numbers - driver's license, social security card, credit cards, bank and utility account numbers, expiration dates, and the phone numbers of the customer service fraud departments of your card issuers. Keep this list in a safe, accessible place, such as a safe or safe deposit box - and not your purse, wallet, or car - so that you can respond quickly in case your identification is lost or stolen. Memorize all your passwords or keep them in a very safe location, such as a safe deposit box. Don't record them on anything you carry with you in your purse, wallet, or car. Never keep passwords or PINs near cards or documents identifying the account they belong to, unless the information is stored in a safe deposit box or other very secure place. Shop smartly online. The Internet puts vast information at your fingertips. Before shopping, though, make sure that you are familiar with the company or seller, including their privacy policy. Disclose only necessary personal information, and opt out of information sharing if possible.


Order a copy of your free credit report from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies every year. Make sure it is accurate and includes only those activities you've authorized. Ongoing monitoring of your credit report is possible if you order one report from a different agency every four months.