More than 3.2 million incidents of fraud were reported in the United States in 2019, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Whether posing as someone else to obtain your personal information or peeking over your shoulder at the cash register, scam artists and identity thieves often target the digits you use each day to steal your identity. Keep these tips in mind so you can protect yourself from being a victim of identity theft.
Prevent Scammers From Stealing Your Identity
Numbers you rely on every day, like your birthdate, ZIP code or phone number, can open you up to identity theft threats. These are data sources you should be most cautious about in public.
Don’t Share Your Birthdate
Did you know that with your name, address and birthdate in hand, some scammers may be able to buy your Social Security number on websites? In fact, with your birthdate and hometown, thieves can often guess all of your digits. Think twice about listing your birthdate on social media and other websites to decrease your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.
Protect Your ZIP Code
After making a purchase with a credit card at the cash register, you may be asked to provide your ZIP code. Beware — your ZIP code may find its way to scammers who can couple it with other bits of personal data to steal your identity.
Don’t Give Away Your Phone Number
Online software can allow fraudsters to see your phone number. When you receive “robocalls,” responding to “opt out” instructions may serve to notify the caller that the number works and has potential for future victimization. Making callbacks to offers of free merchandise may also reveal your phone number, which can then show up on the “suckers list” that scammers sell to others online.
Report a Missing Passport
Even if you’re not traveling, a stolen or lost passport is serious business because the numbers on it can be used to steal your identity. Be sure your passport is locked away safely. If it's missing in the United States, contact the National Passport Information Center to immediately deactivate it and get a new one. If abroad, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Keep Your PINs Secure
Before computers, personal identification numbers (PINs) were typically used as original passwords. While still very popular, keep this in mind: Never use your birthdate (0321 for March 21, for example), your birth year or your home’s address as a PIN for an ATM. Also stay away from other easy-to-guess PINs, such as 1234, 0000, 2580 (a top-to-bottom keypad sequence), 0852 (bottom-to-top keypad sequence), or 1111, 5555, 1212, etc.