How To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

  • Contributors:
  • Eric Larson
Image of young hacker at computer and using credit card for identity theft

Identity theft is a growing concern for both individuals and businesses. Especially as thieves become more skillful and deploy more sophisticated tactics.

You can protect yourself from identity theft whether criminals are opening new financial accounts, making purchases, or filing false tax refunds on your behalf.

Identity theft occurs when another person uses your personal information – such as your social security number, birthdate, address, driver’s license number, account numbers, etc. – for their financial gain.

It’s important to make sure you take the proper steps to protect yourself against identify theft, but you also want to make sure you know the warning signs.

There are several red flags that may indicate your identity has been stolen. Keep an eye out for these irregularities and act on them immediately. Doing so can help you stop or minimize identity theft.


Red flags

  • Unfamiliar charges or withdrawals from your bank account (make sure you’re reviewing your accounts regularly)
  • New or unfamiliar account(s) on your credit report (another report to review on an annual basis)
  • Bills or invoices for items you never purchased
  • Collection calls for debts you didn’t incur
  • IRS notices for tax returns you didn’t file
  • Correspondence from credit card companies, or other companies, for address/account changes you didn’t make
  • Postal mail not being delivered to your home
  • Notification of a data breach at a company you do business with
  • Notices from an insurance provider for medical services you didn’t receive


If you see any of these red flags and believe your identity may have been compromised, there are a few things you should do right away.


Next steps

  1. First, obtain a copy of your credit report. Review it for any suspicious activity, and if needed, place a security freeze on your credit report so new lines of credit can’t be opened.
  2. Contact your bank immediately and review all of your financial accounts.
  3. You should also:
    • Cancel any credit/debit cards you have and request new ones
    • Update all login and password information on any accounts. Make sure you use strong credentials!
    • Subscribe to a reputable credit monitoring service
    • Report your identity theft to authorities, when appropriate


As we move into the new year, now is a great time to revisit security best practices to keep your personal and financial information safe.

Start with the basics – make sure you always have strong login credentials for all your online accounts and keep all your personal documents in a secure, private location.

If you need to get rid of any sensitive or confidential documents, make sure they’re shredded. Always ask about how your personal information will be used before sharing it.

Finally, be mindful of the information you share online, especially on social media sites. It’s always better to keep personal, confidential information to yourself.


Have questions about identity theft? Let’s talk!