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10 Ways to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Keep your accounts and information safe

  • Avoid identity theft through proper identity theft protection

    Don’t Be a Statistic

    En español | In a 2014 poll, AARP Research asked 2,250 Americans about their experiences with identity theft. More than 12 percent said unauthorized purchases were made in their name in the preceding year. According to the Justice Department, 17.6 million adults were victims of ID theft in 2014. To avoid becoming one of those statistics, experts recommend a strategy of prevention and monitoring. Here are 10 ways to keep your accounts safe.

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  • Locked post office mailbox, Anatomy of an Identity Theft

    Secure Your Mail

    Get a locking mailbox or use a PO box. Almost 60 percent of Americans do not lock their mailbox.        

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  • Woman Shopping Online, Anatomy of an Identity Theft

    Limit What Is Mailed to You

    Get online accounts for all bank and credit cards. Nineteen percent of Americans over 50 have not set up online access to their financial accounts.

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  • thief stealing purse from car, Anatomy of an Identity Theft

    Never Leave Personal Information in Your Car

    Nineteen percent of Americans 18 to 49 admitted they have left their wallet or purse in their locked car over the past week. But only 8 percent of those over 50 did.

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  • Shredding papers, Anatomy of an Identity Theft

    Shred Documents Containing Personal Information

    This includes bank and credit card statements, tax forms and medical bills. Forty-one percent of respondents age 50 and older shred documents once a week or more.

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  • Device passcode, Anatomy of an Identity Theft

    Lock Electronic Devices

    Set up passcodes on your smartphones, laptops and tablets to prevent unauthorized use if they are lost or stolen. Forty-four percent of those age 50-plus who own smartphones have not set up a passcode on them.

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  • Account closed letter, Anatomy of an Identity Theft

    Close Out Inactive Accounts

    Old credit card accounts that are not in use can make tempting targets for ID thieves.

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  • Social Security card in safe, Anatomy of an Identity Theft

    Don't Carry Your Social Security Card

    Even exposing the last four digits of your Social Security number can put you at risk for fraud.

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  • checking online account, Anatomy of an Identity Theft

    Monitor Your Account Activity

    Check accounts and credit card statements online regularly. Three in 4 Americans who bank online say they check their accounts at least once a week.

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  • Credit report

    Register With the 3 Credit Reporting Agencies

    Establish accounts with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Four in 10 Americans have not registered for online access to their accounts with the credit bureaus.

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  • Fraud, Anatomy of an Identity Theft

    Put Fraud Alerts or Freezes on Your Accounts

    You can put a fraud alert or establish a credit freeze on your accounts by contacting the three credit bureaus. Only 16 percent of respondents who had received breach notifications put fraud alerts on their credit files, and less than 6 percent opted for credit freezes.

    — With additional reporting by Sarah Barchus

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  • Money End Slide
    Getty Images/Corbis

    More on Scams

    Now that you know how to avoid identity theft scams, read about How millions fall victim to identity theft.

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