Although it’s important to protect yourself from identity theft all the time, you must be extremely diligent when you’re moving.
For folks who move, the threat of identity theft increases for two main reasons:
- During the relocation process, massive amounts of personal information is thrown away.
- Sensitive mail could go to your old address.
Identity Theft Can Happen Before You Even Move
When moving, people toss out lots of stuff. On a moving truck, weight is money, so dumping old bills and dated financial documents helps lighten the load. However, if you don’t destroy, shred and carefully dispose of these documents, you may join the ranks of identity theft victims.
Dumpster diving is one of the primary ways identity thieves get personal information. Thieves search through trash for old tax returns or discarded mortgage documents, because they contain Social Security numbers. Although SSNs are gold for identity thieves, utility and credit card bills also can lead to identity theft.
If you are going to dispose of bills or documents, invest in a shredder or find a shredding service near you. Any paperwork you once deemed worth keeping and filing away is likely to be valuable to identity thieves.
Even after shredding reams of paper, you still will have bills, documents and paperwork you need to keep. Think about how you’ll transport this information to your new home—securely.
Will you keep it in a filing cabinet and have the movers roll it into the truck? Will you remove the paperwork and box it up for transportation in the moving van? Remember, once the truck leaves your driveway, the contents are out of your control until they’re delivered to your new address.
Some people prefer to take sensitive documents with them if they are driving to their new place. This isn’t possible if you have a full car or are flying. You can box up the files and have a friend or relative hold them until you arrive at your new home and then ship them to you via certified mail.
If you prefer to have the items shipped by your moving company, you’ll want to purchase a sturdy file cabinet with a lock.
Protect yourself from identity theft after the move, too
About a week after settling in to your new place, check to make sure your phone, gas, electric, cable and internet accounts are closed at your old address. This will ensure new tenants or identity thieves haven’t re-opened your accounts.
Make sure no mail is going to your old address, especially sensitive items dealing with credit cards, car loans, mortgage statements or any financial-related documents. Don’t just rely on the postal service to forward everything indefinitely.
You should obtain a copy of your credit report about three months after your move. Consumers are allowed one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus.
The credit reports should list any inquiries made to your credit. Look for any you don’t recognize—especially inquiries using your old address. This could be an identity thief trying to open an account in your name. Contact the creditor that ran the report immediately, as well as the credit bureaus, if you find something out of line.
If you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft, call one of the credit bureaus and place a fraud alert on your credit report immediately. The credit bureau you contact is required by the Federal Trade Commission to contact the other two so they will also place a fraud alert on your credit report.
Here are the three credit bureaus and their websites:
For more information on how to protect yourself from identity theft and what to do if you believe you’ve been a victim, visit the Federal Trade Commission.