Becky Frost is senior manager of consumer education for Experian’s ProtectMyID.
Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer — and for many Americans it’s the beginning of moving season.
Indeed, summer is the busiest time for movers. College students are moving home for the summer or moving to campus for summer studies. Interns are moving into apartments. Families are relocating into and out of the Washington region.
As if moving wasn’t stressful enough, here’s one more thing to worry about: identity theft.
During a move, you are especially vulnerable: Like most people, you have likely accumulated a ton of things you no longer need. The things you leave behind can make you a potential candidate for identity theft.
Here are some steps to take to avoid falling victim:
• Be aware of how identity thieves operate. Identity thieves can target the homes of people who have recently moved or are on vacation. Keep your sensitive documents, like tax forms and medical information, in a secure place like a locking file cabinet or safe during the move.
Additionally, remember to shred old documents that contain sensitive or personal information. Properly recycle electronics for which you no longer have use. Identity thieves usually are long gone before you discover that you are a victim.
• Change your address. Remember that credit card companies, auto dealers, retailers and the like regularly send out mail. This unopened mail can pile up. There are still old-school identity thieves who target mailboxes, dumpsters and trash bins looking for a new identity — yours. If these unopened letters contain personal information, an identity thief may have just hit the jackpot.
Make sure your mobile phone bill and all utility accounts are forwarded to your new address. When moving, your mind can be completely focused on other things and it can be easy to overlook identity safeguards. A visit to your local post office, or going to www.usps.com can help ensure that all your mail arrives at the correct location.
• Be on the lookout for dishonest moving companies. It’s important to select a reputable moving company and ask the right questions. The safety of your identity and the security of your personal belongings should be top priorities.
Is the person or company that you just hired bonded and insured, experienced, recommended and top rated on sites that review such services? These are people who will have complete access to your home. They may be tasked to pack important documents that contain sensitive personal information.
Research online and look for reviews and personal recommendations to make sure you pick the right moving company. Another good general rule is to keep extremely sensitive documents (like Social Security cards, birth certificates and the like) with you during the move.
• Manage your technology during the move. Mobile phones, computers and any device that stores sensitive data can easily be misplaced or stolen during a move. Set up your devices to automatically lock when not in use. Use software that enables you to wipe your data remotely in the event that the device is stolen. If you plan to sell, donate or recycle old devices, be sure data is wiped clean by a trustworthy source.
• Monitor your credit report regularly. Monitoring your credit report on a regular basis can help you keep track of how you maintain and manage your credit. It can also help you detect identity fraud early — allowing you to act quickly to prevent further damage to your credit.
Moving can be stressful enough. It can become extra challenging if your efforts are hampered by identity theft.