To reduce or minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud, there are some basic steps you can take. These steps correspond to the acronym SCAM. This acronym stands for " Stingy, Check, Ask, and Maintain".
  • STINGY: Be stingy about giving out your personal information to others unless you have a reason to trust them, regardless of where you are. Adopt a "need to know" approach to your personal data. If you are traveling, have your mail held at your local post office or ask someone you know well and trust to collect and hold your mail while you're away. Shred and destroy unwanted documents that contain personal information. Furthermore, deposit mail in U.S. Postal Service collection boxes.

  • CHECK: Check your financial information regularly. Look for what should be there and what should not. You should be receiving monthly statements. If your not, call the financial institution or credit card company immediately and inquire. If you are told that your statements are being mailed to another address, tell them you did not authorize the change of address and that someone may be improperly using your accounts. Obtain copies of all statements since the last statement you received to help in determining whether or not some of those transactions were fraudulent. Review your statements closely to make sure there are no unauthorized transactions. Contact your financial institution or Credit Card Company immediately if there are any unauthorized transactions.

  • ASK: Periodically ask for a copy of your credit report from credit reporting bureaus such as Equifax, Experian, or Transunion. Your credit report should list all bank and financial accounts under you name.

  • MAINTAIN: Maintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts. You should retain your monthly statements and checks for at least one year, if not more. If you need to dispute a particular transaction, your original records will be more immediately accessible and useful to the institutions that you have contacted.

Other steps you can take to avoid identity theft include the following: Sign new credit cards immediately and write "Ask for ID" on them. Watch cashiers closely. Watch anyone who handles your checks or plastic cards. Memorize your social security number and passwords. Do not use your date of birth as your password and do not record passwords on papers you carry with you. When using an ATM, be aware of your surroundings, i.e., someone attempting to get your PIN number. Also, be wary of the machine itself. Check to make sure that the machine has not been retrofitted with a skimming device that would capture the details of the transaction. Never leave transaction receipts at ATM machines, gas stations or points of sale.