The Smart About Money website will be retiring on July 31, 2021. Learn more about this decision.


Watch Credit and Protect Information to Stop Identity Theft


There is no definite way to ensure you will not become a victim of identity theft. However, there are steps you can take to keep your financial information safe and minimize the chances that it will be stolen and used by a thief.

First, monitor your credit report and regularly check for inaccuracies. You are entitled to a free credit report every year from each of the major credit report agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — so if you pull one every few months, you can continually monitor your credit report throughout the year. You can order a detailed summary from each agency by visiting

Protect your personal information by never giving out your Social Security number, bank account or other private data to unknown organizations or people. Most people who fall victim to identity theft mistakenly give out their personal information to fraudsters who appear to be representing a legitimate business. Remember, even a financial institution that you work with will not contact you asking for this information.

Other ways to protect your personal information include:

  • Using a different personal identification number (PIN) or password for each personal account and changing them frequently. Create strong passwords by increasing the number of characters you use, mixing in punctuation symbols and numbers and using bother lower- and upper-case letters.
  • Looking out for phishing, where an email looks like it is from a real financial institution or store but is meant to trick you into supplying personal data.
  • Installing firewalls and anti-spyware on your computer to prevent viruses or downloads designed to steal your personal information.
  • Leaving your Social Security card, bank account numbers, passwords and PINs at home.
  • Shredding papers that have account numbers or other personal details on them.
  • Stopping junk mail and credit card offers from being delivered to your home. Stop most solicitations by calling 1-888-5OPT-OUT or visiting

For more tips on keeping your financial information safe from Internet fraud, visit OnGuardOnline.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]