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6 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Identity Theft

Last Updated: October 2, 2023
4 min read

Table of contents

Key points about: protecting yourself from identity theft and fraud.

  1. If you think your personal data has been stolen, immediately report it to your financial institution.

  2. Be mindful of where and how you share personal data and check the privacy settings on your online accounts.

  3. Use credit card alerts and identity theft protection to monitor your personal information.

In the 21st century, taking steps to prevent identity theft is necessary. Identity fraud is more common than ever now because sensitive personal information is readily available to identity thieves online. And unfortunately, your credit score could be negatively impacted if you do not have protection from identity theft.

It’s more important than ever to be informed about how to protect your identity. Here are a few simple steps to reduce your risk of identity theft.

1. Don’t wait to find out if you’ve been affected by a data breach

If you suspect your sensitive information has been compromised, be proactive about contacting your financial institution and credit card issuers to report potential fraud. If they can verify the fraudulent behavior, they’ll determine the next steps, which may include reissuing a card with a new credit card number. They’ll also advise if you should establish new PIN numbers, passwords, and security codes for your credit accounts.

2. Take advantage of credit monitoring

If you’re concerned that your personal data could be breached, consider using credit monitoring as protection. It will notify you of both legitimate and potentially fraudulent activity (like someone trying to open a new account or debit card in your name).

If you suspect your data has been breached, you may contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian®, and TransUnion) and request a fraud alert or a credit freeze. Services like these can provide an extra layer of protection in case someone tries to commit financial identity theft by accessing your credit report or other information.

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3. Stay abreast of your credit report

Although credit monitoring and fraud alerts keep you informed about your credit-related activity, they require that you take action to prevent fraudulent activity from progressing and won’t necessarily avoid theft on an existing financial account.

With a freeze, new creditors cannot access your credit report, typically one condition of opening a new account. While a freeze won’t negatively impact your credit score or prevent you from accessing your credit report, securing new loans or credit lines may take longer. You’ll need to contact the credit bureau, credit reporting agency, lender, or finance company to request that the freeze be temporarily removed, according to FTC. 

4. Make the most of available credit card alerts

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a personal assistant monitor your credit card activity as an added protection from identity theft? You do! Many credit card issuers offer email and text alerts as a form of consumer protection to make managing your credit easier. 

The available alerts may include those that help you manage your spending — such as balance notifications, payment reminders, statement notifications, and general alerts — and they may help you spot identity theft. Transaction alerts are a good example: If you rarely make purchases over $500, you can set up an alert to notify you of any charge exceeding that amount. When you receive the alert, you can confirm whether the transaction is one you made or a possible indicator of identity theft. This way, you take a proactive step towards identity theft protection against fraud charges.

Did you know?

With Discover, you can get Online Privacy Protection, where we’ll help you regularly remove your personal info from select people-search websites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the Discover app.1 Learn about more benefits Discover credit cards offer compared to other industry-leading cards.


5. Be mindful of how much information you give up

When your account privacy settings aren’t secure, maiden names, birthdays, ZIP codes, and even the financial institutions you use are easy to discover on social media. Protect the information you share, and don’t give out your social security number, bank account information, or other personal info too easily.

Be careful with your personal data at retailers and when dining at a restaurant. If a restaurant or merchant’s credit card processing system is temporarily “down,” for example, don’t allow a staff member to write your credit card information on a piece of paper for later processing.  

If you receive a call from someone who claims to be calling from your financial institution, your employer’s human resource department, or even the IRS or social security administration asking for personal data, don’t give them any information. Instead, ask the caller to give you a number you can research to verify their identity. If you cannot verify the data, the caller could have been an identity thief, and it’s a good idea to file a police report with law enforcement. Then, you protect yourself and can help prevent thieves from committing further fraud on others.

6. Invest in identity protection

Discover cardmembers have yet another option for helping protect their identities, credit file, and personal information. As a Discover Cardmember, you can subscribe to Discover Identity Theft Protection. This comprehensive service includes: 3 Bureau Credit Alerts–when key changes2 are reported to your credit file; Dark Web Alerts–when we find your SSN or any other info you provide on any one of thousands of Dark Web sites we monitor for illegally sharing personal data; and more. In the case of ID theft, you can access up to $1MM Identity Theft Insurance–for legal expenses, reimbursement of stolen funds, lost wages, and more covered expenses.3 

Your digital DNA is everywhere, so it’s wise to employ identity theft prevention practices before you become an identity theft victim. By taking advantage of the various available alerts and programs — and applying some common sense in how you handle your sensitive information and personal information — you can enjoy greater peace of mind the next time the media announces a possible breach of customer data.


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