Protect Your Identity Week: When you know the thief

One common tip for preventing identity theft is to always keep track of purse or wallet while shopping. Unfortunately, this advice should also be followed at home. In 16 percent of all cases, victims are aware of the thief’s identity (FTC Identity Theft Survey Report, 2006). Following are some tips to help you protect yourself from this scenario.

Lock it up. Invest in a filing cabinet that locks. File all personal documents including credit card and bank statements, tax documents and any other financial paperwork kept at home.

Password protect your computer. Be sure to password protect your computer and all files on your hard drive pertaining to your finances. Change the passwords often and be sure to use a password that is not too easy to figure out.

Keep credit cards and PINs safe. Do not keep your PIN number in your wallet or anywhere near your debit and credit cards. Also, do not lend your card to others or share your PIN. If you have already made this mistake, call the issuer to get a new card and change the PIN.

Be picky about houseguests. Use caution when inviting strangers into your home. Be extra careful when choosing someone to housesit or pick up your mail when you are on vacation. Consider asking the post office to hold your mail when planning to be away for more than a few days.

Go paperless. Research shows that people who bank entirely online reduce their chances of becoming identity theft victims by about 10 percent. Also, consider investing in personal finance software to track expenses and pay bills online.

Protecting your information is well worth the effort. As you might imagine, identity theft gets even more difficult to deal with when the thief is someone you trust. If you do fall victim, know that reporting the crime may result in the arrest and prosecution of the thief. If this is not desirable, consider hiring a mediator to help devise a solution. You might also encourage the impostor to seek professional counseling. For more information about identity theft, visit

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.