How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Millions of Americans are victims of identity theft each year. As thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated, consumers must be diligent in protecting their identity. While some identity theft issues can be resolved quickly, other identity theft victims face years of recovery. One of the most important things a consumer can do for their credit is to protect their confidential personal information. Here are some steps a consumer can take:

Shred confidential information

Often, identity theft occurs when a thief goes “dumpster diving,” i.e., rummaging through trash to find confidential information. Consumers can protect themselves by shredding any document that contains Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, or other important confidential information. When in doubt, play it safe and shred it.

Protect your confidential information 

Identity thieves use sophisticated methods, such as fraudulent phone calls and text messages, to obtain Social Security and account numbers. Know who is calling you, and don’t provide confidential information over the phone unless you’ve made the phone call.

Don’t click on suspicious emails 

Phishing scams have become increasingly popular, and phishing emails often look legitimate. Don’t click on links in emails—instead type the official URL into your browser’s address bar. If something looks suspicious, assume that it probably is. Call your bank or credit card company directly and inquire about the email.

Monitor your credit

Order your free annual credit reports and scrutinize them to ensure that all of the accounts listed are yours. By reviewing your credit report on a regular basis, you may catch an instance of identity theft before it becomes a larger problem.
  • 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.