MONEY Consumer Protection by AARP

Don’t Be a Statistic

In a 2014 poll, AARP Research asked 2,250 Americans about their experiences with identity theft. More than 12 percent said unauthorized purchases were made in their name in the preceding year. According to the Justice Department, 17.6 million adults were victims of ID theft in 2014. To avoid becoming one of those statistics, experts recommend a strategy of prevention and monitoring. Here are 10 ways to keep your accounts safe.

Secure Your Mail

Get a locking mailbox or use a PO box. Almost 60 percent of Americans do not lock their mailbox.

Limit What Is Mailed to You

Get online accounts for all bank and credit cards. Nineteen percent of Americans over 50 have not set up online access to their financial accounts.

Never Leave Personal Information in Your Car

Nineteen percent of Americans 18 to 49 admitted they have left their wallet or purse in their locked car over the past week. But only 8 percent of those over 50 did.

Shred Documents Containing Personal Information

This includes bank and credit card statements, tax forms and medical bills. Forty-one percent of respondents age 50 and older shred documents once a week or more.

Lock Electronic Devices

Set up passcodes on your smartphones, laptops and tablets to prevent unauthorized use if they are lost or stolen. Forty-four percent of those age 50-plus who own smartphones have not set up a passcode on them.

Close Out Inactive Accounts

Old credit card accounts that are not in use can make tempting targets for ID thieves.

Don’t Carry Your Social Security Card

Even exposing the last four digits of your Social Security number can put you at risk for fraud.

Monitor Your Account Activity

Check accounts and credit card statements online regularly. Three in 4 Americans who bank online say they check their accounts at least once a week.

Register With the 3 Credit Reporting Agencies

Establish accounts with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Four in 10 Americans have not registered for online access to their accounts with the credit bureaus.

Put Fraud Alerts or Freezes on Your Accounts

You can put a fraud alert or establish a credit freeze on your accounts by contacting the three credit bureaus. Only 16 percent of respondents who had received breach notifications put fraud alerts on their credit files, and less than 6 percent opted for credit freezes.