Summers are always a popular time for moving. Whether you're a recent college graduate or a snowbird headed back up north, the warm weather is a time when many people change their address. However, moving puts the security of documents containing personal identifying information at risk of identity theft.
Protecting your identity during a move is actually easier than protecting your fragile belongings, but protecting against threats to your identity usually isn’t at the top of the to-do list. Here are a few things you can add to that list to help safeguard your accounts and your information:
- Lock up important data, but not where you think. If you have a home file cabinet, desk, fire safe, documents folder, or some other obvious source of important information, you might want to empty the contents. You can clear the information out of those items and transport the documents yourself. That way, your file cabinet isn’t such a beacon that alerts a potential thief that your identifying information is probably in here.
- Handle your change of address form as soon as possible.Even if you haven’t found your new permanent address before you have to relinquish your old one, it’s a good idea to beat mail scammers to the punch by changing your mail delivery. You can simply put a hold on your mail and pick it up in person at the post office, or you can rent a short-term PO box and have your mail sent there until everything is finalized. Asking about preventing mail fraud and identity theft at the post office is your best bet, and they can tell you the best method for your situation.
- Watch those electronics closely.Whether you’re hiring a company or gathering some friends who’ll work for pizza, it can be risky to let people in your home to move your stuff. You probably won’t pack your tablet or laptop with the towels and linens, but things like your home desktop computer contain a wealth of information about you and your accounts, so consider packing and loading your electronics yourself.
- Get rid of the stuff you don’t need.While moving can be chaotic and time consuming, it can also be a great time to declutter. Shredding old papers and discarding them can get the mess out of your drawers while helping to reduce your risk of identity theft.
- Get in touch with the utility companies.Utility scams are rampant, and a number of identity theft victims have had their information used fraudulently to turn on utilities. Before you move, check with your utility companies in your new location and make sure everything is setup for you to open accounts. In your current location, contact your utility companies and let them know what date you’ll be deactivating your service. If you receive any strange utility bills from either address, get to the bottom of them right away since they could be a sign someone is taking advantage of your move.
One of the most important things consumers can do to protect their identities—whether they’re moving or not—is to request a credit report. If you’re moving, this can be even more helpful as you’ll have a clear picture of your accounts before you take on a big life change. A few months after the move, it’s a good idea to request another report, just to be sure that nothing strange happened while you were focused on your next chapter.