How to Make Sure Your Identity Moves with You
There are certain times when you’re at a higher risk of identity theft: When you’re using a public computer, when you give multiple people access to your accounts, and when you move. That’s right—the common but frustrating act of moving can set you up for identity theft. According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly12 million US residents were victims between 2006 and 2008. If you have a move coming up, make sure identity protection is just as revered as packing that fine china.
It makes sense why moving is prime time for ID theft—there’s personal information all over the place, your mail forwarding services might not go flawlessly, and it’s easy to lose track of pertinent information you’d otherwise be diligent about. If you’re like many Americans, moving time is cleaning time and getting rid of those outdated bills makes you feel cleansed. However, if they’re not destroyed (simply recycled or thrown away), your personal information is up for grabs.
Dumpster Diving Finds
Depending on where you live, “dumpster diving” might be legal or a minor law breakage that most police won’t look at twice. It’s a great way for savvy shoppers to find treasures like furniture they can work on, but it’s also a treasure trove for identity thieves. Anything from tax returns to mortgage materials might have your name, social security number and recent address on it. Even a utility bill can be used in some instances.
For under $100, a shredder can save you from this kind of nightmare. If you ever thought about keeping a document, then it’s a great find for an identity thief. However, for the documents you want to hold onto, it’s also important to map the logistics for them during the move. Will you be transporting them or a moving company? If it’s in your hands, a car break-in might be a threat, but if you trust your moving company, they can keep sensitive documents secure for you.
Once the dust has settled, it’s time to go over all your utility bills to ensure they’ve been closed. This is another grand opportunity for identity theft, since the new residents in your old digs could happily use your cable or electricity while you keep footing the bill. You also need to double check that your mail isn’t just forwarded, but the address is changed with every creditor or supplier.
Three months after you move, check your credit score for any suspicious activity. A site like Credit Karma offers you unlimited credit reports at no charge, with your profile updated each month. If you notice anything fishy, it’s often just a simple phone call or online investigation report (a simple one-page fill in the blank report) that can take care of it. Identity theft is like a cancer—it only gets worse the longer it goes untreated.
Move safely, and make sure your identity is along for the ride. Otherwise, your perfectly planned move is going to have some serious bumps in the road.