When you move from one home to another, you think about protecting your items, your old home, and your new home, but have you considered that moving can put you at risk for identity theft? It’s not the first thing you probably think of, but given the number of changes that happen rapidly, it’s very possible that thieves can get their hands on your information and turn your life upside down.
Moving can put you at risk because so many things are in flux that it is easy for situations to fly under the radar, keeping you from noticing things that normally would be obvious. Just by remembering these simple strategies and planning ahead, you can prevent many of the situations that lead to identity theft.
And if theft does occur, you should be primed to handle it quickly, reporting it to the proper authorities, and ensuring that any damage is mitigated as much as possible.
Let’s talk through the risks, and how to mitigate each of them.
Protect your information
Moving is always a difficult time for families and many people don’t think of identity theft during this time. If you’re getting quotes from a bunch of movers, logging into many different real estate websites, and joining new communities on social media, you are inherently increasing your risk of having your identity stolen. At new websites, there is always the chance of having malware infect your computer, and on social media, people who seem helpful could be trying to gather enough information to compromise your identity.
To keep yourself safer, make sure that your anti-virus and anti-malware programs are up to date on all devices that you use. Protect your primary accounts with complex, strong passwords, and use two-factor identification when you can. If you’re using a moving company, you should consider moving your technology yourself, where you can keep it controlled.
This is especially true if you keep work information, client information, or any personal identifying information on your computer. Be careful how much information you share online. Do you really need to tell that stranger what street you’re moving to?
Monitor your accounts
You should already get your annual credit report and look for any unexplained negative items, but anytime your life is in significant change, you should keep a close eye on your accounts. Don’t assume that your credit card company will call if you have an invalid charge; this is a time where you may be making a lot of unusual purchases, and things might slip through. Check your account online if you can, and dispute any charges if necessary.
If you haven’t gone paper-free yet, this is a great motivator to get it done. Having your bill automatically delivered to your email or your bank every month can make it easier to track what’s going on, and reduces the risk of an important piece of mail going astray and giving someone an inroad into your identity.
Don’t throw out address notification items
It’s easy to assume that people will figure out that you’ve moved. Don’t leave this to chance. You should expect to notify, at the very least, social security, the IRS, and the Department of Motor Vehicles, that you’ve moved. You should also go to the post office and forward your mail to your new home. If you will be unable to check your mail for a length of time, consider having it held.
When the post office forwards your mail, you will usually see a yellow sticker on it which tells you that the original sender doesn’t have your new address. This is a good reminder to give them a call and let them know where your mail should be sent.
Manage any damage that occurs
If you see any signs of identity theft on your accounts, do not ignore it. The damage will only get worse if you don’t take care of it quickly. Contact all relevant parties, let them know about the damage done, and ask them what you must do to resolve the damage. Follow their instructions to fix any problems that have occurred.
Experts on identity theft joke that this crime has become the third unpreventable thing in life, right along with death and taxes. Identity theft can be a mess to clean up; preventing it is often the best solution. But if you’ve been unable to prevent identity theft, the important thing is not to image that it will take care of itself.
It’s not easy to move from one area to another. Don’t make the process more complicated by compromising your identity at the same time. What advice would you give someone in the middle of a move who needs to protect their identity?