Safeguarding Your Data

Safeguarding Your Data

More InformationTop of page

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission provides information on how to avoid phishing scams. Go to

The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) provides statistics on phishing attacks and advice for individuals and companies. APWG is a global pan-industrial and law enforcement association focused on eliminating fraud and identity theft that result from phishing and other online scams. Go to

Helpful Guidelines Top of page

Helpful guidelines to protect your identity from theft:

  • Remove posted mail from your home mailbox every day - or better yet, sign up for electronic statements whenever possible!
  • Never leave bills in your mailbox overnight. Always put them in a secure US postal mailbox - or better yet, pay bills online whenever possible!
  • Know your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if bills or new cards don’t arrive on time. An identity thief may have filed a change of address request in your name with the creditor or the post office.
  • Shred receipts and mail, especially pre-approved credit card applications.
  • Eliminate the receipt of pre-approved offers of credit by calling 1-888-5-OPT-OUT.
  • Never carry your Social Security card, bank passwords or other sensitive information in your wallet.
  • Account for all new checks when you receive them in the mail.
  • Remove your name from direct mail lists and write to the companies you do business with and ask them not to sell or rent your name. You can visit the Direct Marketing Association’s website to learn about the laws that protect you as a consumer and how to get your name removed from these lists.
  • Order copies of your credit report once a year from one of the three national credit-reporting agencies and look for accuracy and indications of fraud, such as unauthorized applications, unfamiliar credit accounts, credit inquiries and defaults and delinquencies that you did not cause.
  • Check your Social Security Earnings and Benefits statement once each year to make sure that no one else is using your Social Security number for employment.


Be suspicious about telephone calls where:

  • The company has a name that is intended to sound like a government agency or a well-known company.
  • The company is unwilling to send you written information on the offer or give you references.
  • Someone claims you’ve won a prize and you haven't entered a contest.
  • A telemarketer asks for your Social Security number, calling card or credit card number, so you can purchase products or qualify for prizes.
  • You have to pay a fee before you receive complimentary goods or services.
  • In general, things sound too good to be true!


Bank, shop and spend wisely:

  • Cancel your unused credit cards so that their account numbers will not appear on your credit report.
  • Sign your credit cards immediately upon receipt.
  • Do business with companies you know are reputable, particularly online.
  • Use a secure browser when you conduct business online that encrypts or scrambles purchase information. Make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active.
  • Avoid opening e-mail from unknown sources.
  • Never click on an unknown e-mail link. Go to the company’s website yourself and fill out information there or call them.
  • Ask businesses about their privacy policies and how they will use your information. Can you choose to keep it confidential? Do they restrict access to data?


Helpful guidelines if your identity has been stolen:

  1. Contact your bank(s) and credit card issuer(s) immediately to:
    • Protect access to your accounts
    • Stop payments on missing checks
    • Change personal identification numbers (PINs) and online banking passwords
    • Open a new account if appropriate
  2. File a report with your local police department and:
    • Obtain a police report number with the date, time, police department, location and name of the police officer taking the report. The police report will be helpful when clarifying to creditors that you are a victim of identity theft.
    • Agree to an investigation (if the police recommend it) into the loss
    • Complete an Identity Theft Affidavit form and submit it to the appropriate companies. You can download a copy of this form at
  3. Contact the three major credit bureaus and request a copy of your credit report and:
    • Review your reports to make sure additional fraudulent accounts have not been opened in your name or unauthorized changes made to your existing accounts.
    • Request the “inquiries” be removed from your report from the companies that opened the fraudulent accounts. Here are the major credit bureaus and their phone numbers: 
      • Trans Union 1-800-680-7289
      • Experian 1-888-397-3742
      • Equifax 1-800-525-6285
    • You may also contact the FTC’s ID Theft Consumer Response Center toll-free at 1-877-IDTHEFT
  4. Recheck your credit report in a few months to:
    • Verify your corrections and changes.
    • Make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
    • Request a “fraud alert” for your file and a victim’s statement asking creditors to call you before opening new accounts or changing your existing ones. This can help prevent an identity thief from opening additional accounts in your name.
  5. If you stop receiving regular mail, verify mail has not been stolen from your mailbox and:
    • Make sure no one has requested an unauthorized address change, title change, or PIN change or ordered new cards or checks to be sent to another address.
    • If a thief has stolen your mail, contact your local post office and police.
  6. Maintain a written chronology of what happened by noting:
    • What was lost
    • The steps you took to report the incident to the various agencies, banks and firms impacted
    • The date, time, contact telephone numbers, name of the person you talked to and any relevant report or reference number and instructions
  7. Send a registered letter to all creditors where fraudulent accounts have been opened and:
    • Include a copy of the police report.
    • Include the ID Theft Affidavit.
    • Request that the institution send you a letter of release to clean up the account and acknowledge that it is fraudulent.


Important Contact Information

For credit checks and theft information, contact:

Institution Email Phone

Federal Trade Commission






Trans Union




International Check Services



Identity Theft Resource Center


Social Security SSN Fraud Hotline Administration


The National Fraud

Information Center


U.S.Postal SSN Fraud Hotline

Inspection Service