Protecting your identity begins by reducing the number of places where your personal information can be found. You can remove yourself from many mailing lists for up to five years by contacting the Direct Marketing Association. There is a processing fee for this service, however you can opt-out of pre-screened credit offers for free through www.optoutprescreen.com. Other free services include the state and federal no-call lists, and the Network Advertising Initiative's opt-out list which opts out of major online tracking companies.
Next reduce the number of credit cards you have and only carry the cards that you intend to use. If possible use credit cards that have your photo on them.
If any of your credit card companies send random-issue convenience checks, request in writing to be removed from that mailing list. Also ask your bank about its privacy and information policies. Find out if your bank provides your account information to third parties. Ask to opt out of this practice or request that they notify you in advance. If you receive an offer for a pre-approved credit card or loan but aren't interested, shred the application form before throwing it away.
Do not carry your Social Security card with you unless you need it. Provide your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary. Ask if another number can be used instead. Also never print your Social Security number on your checks. If your workplace displays your Social Security number on a timecard or other place open to public view, ask them to change this procedure.
You can also reduce the chance that you will be a victim of identity theft by taking the following precautions:
Because of the nature of identity theft, you may not realize your identity has been stolen until much later. By then, your good name and credit history can be in ruins. Because nothing can guarantee you protection from identity thieves, you should also be vigilant to detect theft as quickly as possible.
An identity thief may use your personal identifying information to fraudulently obtain a driver's license, file for bankruptcy, apply for social security benefits or even get a passport. To head off such possibilities, contact the following agencies and follow their procedures to limit the damage an identity thief can do.
The Department of Public Safety (DPS) can check their database to determine the last time a driver's license was issued in your name. If that issue date is more recent than the last time you personally received a driver's license, you should immediately report the fraud. Your local Driver License Office will determine the best course of action for your individual situation. Determine which DPS Driver License Office you should contact via the Internet or by contacting the Texas Department of Public Safety Driver License Division Customer Service Bureau.
Texas Department of Public Safety
Driver License Division
(512) 424-2600 (English)
(512) 424-7181 (Spanish)
If you believe your Social Security number has been compromised, you should contact the Social Security Administration. Order a copy of your Personal Earnings and Benefits Estimate Statement (PEBES) and compare it to your work history. If you notice any employers or earnings you do not recognize, someone may be using your Social Security number for employment. Report any discrepancies to the Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General and to the Federal Trade Commission.
If necessary, the Social Security Administration may change your Social Security number. However, changing your number will be done only as a last resort when a very specific set of criteria have been met. Contact the Social Security Administration directly to determine the best course of action for you.
Office of the Inspector General
Social Security Administration
Suite 300 Altmeyer Building
6401 Security Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21235
If you have reason to believe an identity thief has used your Social Security number to fraudulently file for a tax refund or has compromised your taxes in any way, contact your local Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Taxpayer Assistance Center immediately. IRS personnel will help you determine what damage has been done to your tax record and help you ascertain what your next step should be to correct the problem.
Internal Revenue Service
If you have reason to believe an identity thief stole anything from your mailbox or that the U.S. Mail was involved in the crime in any way, report it to the nearest U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the law enforcement branch of the U.S. Postal Service and handles all investigations into U.S. Mail theft and fraud.United States Postal Inspection Service
If you believe an identity thief has used your identity to obtain a U.S. Passport in your name, report it to the United States Department of State. The threat of terrorism in America makes this a critical step. Reporting the crime will cause the passport to be rendered useless to the thief, as it will be invalidated once it has been reported as stolen, missing or fraudulent.U.S. Department of State - Passport Services