Empowerment Tips > Identity Theft Prevention

If your identity has been stolen or you are at risk…

  • If your identity is stolen, follow the steps outlined in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Guide to ID Theft for Victims and Consumers on what reports should be filed, who should be notified, and how to set up security freezes and fraud alerts.
  • Never respond to email messages that ask you to update your credit card or banking information. Credit card companies or financial institutions never ask for personal information via email.
  • Avoid making purchases from a merchant you do not know. You can check out a company by contacting the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, the Better Business Bureau, or doing an online search by typing the name of the company and “complaints” as a keyword.
  • Be suspicious of mass emails. Many mass emails make requests for donations or bogus offers for free gifts or tempting coupons. You can check the validity of almost any mass email by going to snopes.com. Forwarding the email to friends may be an attempt by the scammers to collect addresses. Forwarding chain letters and virus warnings could be another trick to collect addresses and information.
  • Use one email address for close friends and family and another for everyone else. Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail and Gmail all offer free addresses. If an address attracts too much spam, get rid of it and get a new one.
  • Disable your email preview page. The scammer will not have confirmation that you received the spam email.
  • Choose an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that filters spam. If you get a lot of spam, your ISP may not be operating effectively. Use spam-blocking software.
  • Always protect your personal information. When sending credit card information or other personal information, make sure the information you send is encrypted. Check to see if there is a symbol of either a key or padlock at the bottom of the browser. The merchant should also provide a security statement. If you are uncomfortable giving personal information online, you may want to call customer service to place your order.
  • Know whom you are dealing with. Does the merchant have a street address or a customer service telephone number in addition to an email address? Verify that the company is located in the United States. If it is not, how long will the delivery take? Will your credit card protect you for purchases made outside the United States?
  • The Federal Trade Commission wants to know about “unsolicited commercial email” you receive and provides tips to help reduce the amount of spam you receive.