Get Your Green On

12 Months to a Better Financial Foundation—Step 5: Protect your identity

Identity theft is incredibly common and can be very time-consuming to deal with. The Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Sentinel Network, which tracks identity theft and other consumer fraud complaints, received 1.4 million reports of identity theft in 2021. The most common types of identity theft were government documents or benefits fraud and credit card fraud. In Washington State alone, more than $135 million was lost to fraud just in 2021.*

To avoid becoming the victim of identity theft, safeguard your identity and financial information using these tips.

  • Store documents that have your personal information, including financial documents, Social Security, Medicare, and credit cards in a safe place at home.
  • Be cautious about spoofing or phishing efforts. Legitimate companies (and the IRS) will never call you to demand payment on-the-spot. If in doubt, hang up and contact the company at the number listed on your bill or their website.
  • Limit what you carry. Leave your social security card and Medicare card at home – unless you are going to need them for a specific reason.
  • Use strong passwords for all online accounts. Don’t use the same password for multiple sites. Consider a password app.
  • Avoid online social media quizzes that ask for personal information such as the name of your first boyfriend/girlfriend, the first car you drove, what school you went to. Think carefully about what you post on social media so you don't give away key data or clues about how you answer security questions.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you are asked to provide personal information like your Social Security number or date of birth. Before disclosing, ask the company why they need it, how it will be protected, and what happens if you don’t share it.
  • Consider signing up for an identity theft protection service. These systems may include monitoring of credit bureau reports, the dark web, social media, and more.
  • Protect your mobile devices with a password and keep it locked when not in use. Use a mobile banking app rather than a mobile browser for banking.
  • Monitor your financial statements on a regular basis for suspicious or unauthorized transactions.
  • Shred financial documents when you no longer need them including bills, insurance information, financial statements, tax returns, and credit card or loan offers.
  • Pick up your mail promptly and use a secure mailbox. Enroll in eStatements for all your financial accounts.
  • Before you sell, give away or dispose of a laptop, computer, or mobile device, get rid of all the personal information you have stored on it. Learn more from the Federal Trade Commission on disposing of old devices.

See more helpful tips, including how to make a plan to recover from identity theft, at

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