How to Prevent Identity Theft

What you should do to protect your personal information from identity thieves

There’s no foolproof way to avoid identity theft — it can happen simply because you shopped at Target — but there are a lot of ways to prove you’re no fool.

The sooner you learn to guard your identity, the better.

Fact: The highest reported age group for identity theft is 20-29.

Here’s a partial list of strategies to keep your identity safe:


  • Don’t keep your Social Security card in your wallet. Make a copy of your Medicare card and cross out all but the last four digits, then keep that version in your wallet except when you need the original at the doctor’s office.
  • Don’t give up personal information just because someone asks — even at work, school, or the doctor’s office. First find out if they need it and what happens if you don’t give it, and what they do to protect your information.
  • Don’t give out personal information over the phone or Internet unless you initiated contact and need to verify your identity.
  • Before trading in or dumping your electronics, make sure you’ve deleted all personal information from them.
  • Shred receipts, credit card offers, insurance forms, checks, bank statements, and any other paperwork with personal or financial details that you no longer need.
  • Be in the habit of collecting your mail promptly, and have your mail held if you plan to be out of town.
  • Keep your financial records in a safe place at home – digital records too.


  • Avoid clicking on links and attachments in email from businesses and people you don’t know.
  • Avoid accessing sensitive information while on public Wi-Fi networks.
  • Don’t use the same password on multiple websites.
  • Regularly change passwords. Consider using password manager software like LastPass so you don’t have to keep track of them all.
  • Put password protection on your laptop and smartphone, and don’t leave them unattended in public. Always log out of your accounts when using someone else’s computer.