16.6 million people—or 7 percent of Americans over the age of 16—were exposed to at least one incident of identity theft in 2012, as the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports. While any incident of identity theft can be alarming, scenarios where a thief charges purchases to your credit card (or even opens a new card in your name) can be personally and financially damaging. Moves are a popular time for identity theft to occur, as thieves know that your attention is divided. Follow these tips, with help from AOL Real Estate and TampaSecurityNow to stay safe during your next move:
Identity Threats During a Move
There are a lot of naturally occurring elements in a home or apartment move that can expose you to identity theft. These include:
- Improper disposal of personal files, credit card offers, old utility bills and other items – As you pack, you may be tempted to throw away old records and utility bills in addition to new junk mail and unsolicited offers. If a thief recovers these from your trash, he could open a credit card in your name. Always shred documents that contain your personal information before disposing of them.
- Theft of personal information by movers or other service people – Whether it’s the cable guy coming by to retrieve your modem or the movers packing the moving truck, all it takes is one unscrupulous person to steal your information. Safeguard possessions by only hiring service people with a positive rating from the Better Business Bureau and staying in the home when you have service people over.
- Theft of mail delivered after you move – After a move, mail can slip through the USPS Mail Forwarding system and go to your old address. If possible, ask a former neighbor to collect and forward items to you to prevent your mail from falling into the hands of a thief, who can use personal information to assume your identity.
- Break-in or theft during the chaos of the move – The presence of movers or of signs of moving (such as a tag sale or moving sale, a realtor parked outside, or a “For Sale” sign) can attract the wrong kind of attention. A thief can break in (or even wander in during an open house) and pocket a cell phone, tablet or other small device that contains personal information. Take these gadgets with you whenever you leave the house or lock them up to prevent theft.
Ways to Safeguard Your Identity During the Move
During a move, Lifelock recommends signing up for an identity protection service that provides automatic notifications and credit monitoring, protecting you if anyone tries to access your accounts. The service can do much of the monitoring for you, during this very busy time.
As you plan to move, create a list of all of the personal mail you routinely receive, such as student loan bills, utility bills, doctor’s and vet appointment reminders, and personal correspondence. Provide everyone with your new address, change your address with the USPS and cancel any services you no longer need to minimize mail coming to your old house. This can also be a perfect time to switch to e-statements, which are better for the environment and can help stop identity theft.