HomeOwnership Center of Central Massachusetts

138 Green Street, Suite 4
Worcester, MA 01604

Preventing Identity Theft

Preventing Identity Theft

With the data breach at Target this holiday season, and new reports that several other retailers may have been compromised, NeighborWorks®’s HomeOwnership Center of Central Massachusetts wants to share some of our (and the Federal Trade Commission’s) suggestions for protecting your identity.

  1. Know who you’re sharing information with:  Don’t be afraid to ask service providers why your personal information is being requested, how it will be used, how it will be protected, and what happens if you don’t share with them.
  2. Store and dispose of your personal information securely, especially your Social Security number:  Limit what personal information you carry around in your wallet, store personal info in a safe spot at home, and shred old receipts, credit offers, bank statements, etc.
  3. Maintain appropriate security on your computers and other electronic devices:  Use secured networks, encrypted sites, and strong passwords to maintain your privacy. Also, limit what you share on social networks and wipe the data off of old phones and computers before disposing of them.
  4. Check your credit with Experien, TransUnion AND Equifax on a regular basis: We recommend checking you credit with all three credit bureaus (because each may contain different info) at least once a year to make sure that your personal information has not been compromised. You can use a credit reporting website or contact one of our coaches to have a soft pull of your credit and a credit analysis done (The cost is $17, includes all three credit scores, and will not affect your credit).

And if you do notice an irregularity or fear your information may have been compromised, act quickly to limit the damage incurred.  Place a free “Initial Fraud Alert” with one of the credit bureaus and confirm that they will share the information with the other two companies (To do so, call Equifax: 1-800-525-6285, TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289, and Experian: 1-888-397-3742). This 90 day alert will help limit the damage that can be caused but it is just the start.  To learn more about additional steps that need to be taken, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website here.