Five Steps to Prevent Identity Theft
An attorney shares tips on how to avoid becoming an identity theft victimBy Meagan Francis | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on November 28, 2023 Featuring practical insights from contributing attorney Ian B. Lyngklip
Use these links to jump to different sections:
- 1. Protect Your Social Security Number
- 2. Keep an Eye on Your Credit History
- 3. Be Cautious With Credit Offers
- 4. Use Certified Mail for Credit Bureau Communications
- 5. Get an Experienced Attorney for ID Theft and Other Scams
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), more than 1 million people reported being victims of identity theft in 2022 alone. Thieves obtain personal data—including driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers, and credit card numbers—in many ways, from stealing wallets to monitoring online purchases and phishing scams.
With a Social Security number, identity thieves can open lines of credit or make purchases in your name. Worse, victims often don’t know identity thieves have absconded with their identity until a real estate deal falls through or a job opportunity is denied due to a derogatory credit report.
Ian Lyngklip, an attorney at Lyngklip & Associates Consumer Law Center in Oak Park, Michigan, suggests the following to protect your identity.
1. Protect Your Social Security Number
Only give your Social Security number only to those who really need it—such as an employer.
2. Keep an Eye on Your Credit History
Order a copy of your annual free credit report from all three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Check for accuracy.
3. Be Cautious With Credit Offers
Reject “pre-approved” credit card applications or suspicious offers from credit card companies.
4. Use Certified Mail for Credit Bureau Communications
Send letters to a collection agency via certified mail, keep a copy, and request a return receipt.
5. Get an Experienced Attorney for ID Theft and Other Scams
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, find an attorney who truly understands identity theft issues. “It’s a highly specialized area, and the attorney has to be familiar with the process and regulations,” says Lyngklip.
For more information on this area of law, see our overview of consumer law.
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