How to protect yourself from identity theft

Identity thieves are constantly on the prowl for your personal information. Identity theft can happen to anyone and because scammers are always getting smarter, it’s important to remain vigilant. Here are a some tips from the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota.

Identity thieves will stop at nothing to gather personal information, which can be stolen in a variety of ways:

Mail theft. For fraudsters, it’s as easy as opening up the victim’s mail box and taking their bank statements or other financial information. It’s a good idea to closely monitor your incoming mail. If you’re expecting sensitive materials to arrive through the mail, check and retrieve your mail daily. If there’s a delay in delivery, contact the sender to check the status.

ATM skimming. Devices installed illegally on ATM machines can gather information contained on your debit card’s magnetic strip. Be sure to inspect the ATM for signs of tampering and avoid ATMs in poorly-lit or low-trafficked areas. When making a withdrawal from an ATM, it’s also a good idea to cover your password with your hand.

Credit card offers/bank statements. Be sure to shred unwanted credit card offers and old bank statements. Thieves are more than willing to go dumpster diving if it might lead to a potential payday. Around the house, make a habit of keeping sensitive financial documents in a secure location.

Protect your Social Security number. Don’t provide your Social Security number unless it’s absolutely necessary. If at all possible, offer alternative forms of identification such as your driver license. Never give your Social Security number out over the phone.

Social Media. When you post to sites like Facebook, keep in mind – depending upon your privacy settings – that information is public. Scammers are looking for phone numbers, birth dates, employment information and any other sensitive information they can use for illicit purposes.

If you believe you’ve been a victim of identity theft, the FTC recommends the following:

Place an initial fraud alert by contacting any of the three credit reporting agencies (, or When you place a Fraud Alert on your credit report with any one of the three major credit reporting companies, that company will notify the other two and fraud alerts will also be placed on those files, too

Monitor your credit report. Under Federal Law, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report every twelve months from each credit reporting company.

Report it to the Authorities. File a complaint with the FTC at and also your local police department. Get copies of both the police report and your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce and BBB here to help. The Minnesota Department of Commerce is here if you have questions or issues about insurance, or believe you have been the victim of a scam or fraud.

Consumers may contact the Consumer Services Center at 651-539-1600 or 800-657-3602. Consumers can file a complaint on the Commerce Department website. Complaints can also be sent to Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 7th Place East, Suite 500, Saint Paul, MN 55101 or by email to Complaints can also be filed online at