Whenever you change addresses, you leave yourself vulnerable to identity theft. But if you know why you might be vulnerable and how thieves can use your move to their advantage, then you can ensure that all vulnerabilities are addressed before you move from your home.
Why Moving Makes You Vulnerable to Identity TheftAs most of us know, identity theft happens when someone gains access to personal information that they can then use to access your bank account, use your credit cards or prepare fake documents in your name. Moving often makes it easier for identity theft to occur: we leave information behind that others can use. Mail that is not rerouted to our new address, important papers that aren't shredded but left in the trash, or through hiring rogue movers.
How to Prevent Identity Theft During a Move
- Make a Change of Address Checklist: Before you move, make sure you take the time to list all companies, institutions and subscriptions that you receive through the postal system. One of the easiest ways that someone can obtain your personal identity is through mail theft. This doesn't mean that the people who move in after you are not trustworthy, rather that it's common for people to throw out mail that doesn't belong to them. So, make a list. Try to think through every possible scenario and who might contact you through the post, including your child's school, former employers, banks, lawyer offices, real estate agents, credit card companies, magazine and newspaper subscriptions.
To make your life a little easier, check out our printable (and free) change of address form. It'll help you remember which addresses you should register with the postal office, which you can do online.
- Properly Destroy Files and Records: When moving, it's a good idea to get rid of files and records that you no longer need. However, if you do, make sure you properly shred documents. If you have highly vulnerable information, such as credit card applications or bank statements, there are professional shredding companies who'll dispose of materials properly. You can also purchase a home paper shredder that will shred items such as old credit cards as well.
- Take Important Documents With You: If you have important documents to move, instead of packing them into the back of the moving truck, it's a good idea to pack them carefully then take them with you when you travel to your new home. If you're moving to another city or state by car and need to spend the night in a hotel, make sure you take the documents into the hotel room with you. You might also consider packing CDs or computers with you, especially if they contain sensitive material.
- Hire Reputable Movers: One of the best ways to ensure that your things arrive at your new home without a problem is to hire reputable movers. While there are many movers to choose from, if you do your research, ask the right questions, and know the signs of rogue movers, you'll be able to hire movers that you can trust.
- Take a Thorough Home Inventory: If you know what you've packed and what the movers will be moving, then it's easier to know what might be missing. A home inventory is a good way to keep track of your things and will come in handy if you need to make an insurance claim or to report a mover. Find out how to take a home inventory here.
- After the Move, Check-up on the Address Changes: Once you've moved, go back through your change of address list and contact the places that may pose a security risk, such as banks, credit card companies and previous employers. Ask if they have your new address and if mail has been rerouted.