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 ProtectYourIDNow.org.

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

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.