Kiplinger Today

Kip Tips

Protect Your Identity Every Day

Cameron Huddleston

Follow these tips so that you never become a victim of ID theft.

In my last column, I wrote about how to protect your identity during the 2010 census. So I thought today it would be a good idea to remind you how to protect your personal information at all times.

High-tech fraud may be notorious, but it accounts for a relatively small amount of ID thefts. The most common source of obtaining personal information illegally is low-tech stealing (of a wallet, purse, mail and even trash). Below are some common dos and don'ts that can help you protect your information and your credit record.

-- Women, don't hang your purse on the back a chair in a public place.

-- Men, do put a rubber band around your wallet -- the friction makes it more difficult to pull from a pocket.


-- Do get a shredder (available for less than $15 at office supply or discount stores) and shred all documents that contain personal information.

-- Don't write down or give out your PIN.

-- Don't carry all of your credit cards with you.

-- Do sign your credit cards. Messages such as "See photo ID" don't work because it's more difficult for thieves to forge your signature than to come up with a fake ID with your name on it.

-- Do check your credit record with the three main credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- at least annually to check for bogus entries or errors. You are entitled to a free report from each bureau once a year through

-- Don't carry your social security card with you.

-- Don't have your social security number or telephone number printed on your checks.

-- Don't give a business your social security number just because it asks for it.

-- Do find out how a business will use your personal information and what will happen if you don't give it.

-- Don't give out personal information on the phone, on the Internet or by mail unless you initiate the contact.

-- Do pay close attention to credit card bills to ensure no unauthorized charges are being made.

-- Do watch for monthly bills. If they fail to reach you, call the company to find out why.

-- Don't use obvious passwords or PINs, such as your birth date, phone number, mother's maiden name, etc.

-- Do safeguard your computer by updating your virus protection regularly and using a firewall program.

-- Don't download files sent by strangers.

-- Do look for Web site privacy policies when buying something online.

-- Don't store financial information on your laptop.

-- Do delete personal information from your computer before getting rid of it.

Editor's Picks From Kiplinger


Permission to post your comment is assumed when you submit it. The name you provide will be used to identify your post, and NOT your e-mail address. We reserve the right to excerpt or edit any posted comments for clarity, appropriateness, civility, and relevance to the topic.
View our full privacy policy


Market Update