Make sure you are being proactive when you move. Here's how to protect yourself against identity theft.Make sure you are being proactive when you move. Here's how to protect yourself against identity theft.Moving Tips

How to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft When You Move

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When you move, there is already a lot on your plate. From changing your address to setting up utilities at the new house, there are so many little details to manage among the big ones. While you're busy packing boxes and coordinating with a moving company, the last thing on your mind is probably identity theft. And though it is far from being number one on your radar, it is a potential problem that can happen when people move because relocating makes your information more vulnerable than usual.

However, when you take time to protect your identity and prevent information from falling into the wrong hands, you can safeguard yourself against dealing with a potential headache— and financial loss — in the future. Make sure nobody uses your identity to ruin your credit score or tie you to unwanted problems by being proactive when you move. Here's how to protect yourself against identity theft.

Forward Mail to Your New Address

About two weeks before you move, you should set your mail forwarding date. In the United States, you can go to the official USPS Change of Address website and notify the post office about where and when your old mail should be forwarded. There is about a 3 business day processing time, so take care to schedule the forwarding about 3-5 days before your official move happens. This ensures that no mail, which includes credit card applications, mortgage statements, tax forms, and DMV mailings doesn’t go to the old address.

These documents often contain sensitive information that identity thieves can use to open up new credit card accounts in your name, so you definitely don’t want them falling into the wrong hands. You can also ask the post office to hold your mail or redirect your mail to a p.o. box about a month before your move to be absolutely sure that your mail isn't’ going to go to your old address after you move.

Freeze Your Credit for a Season

If you're worried about being in a vulnerable spot after your move, you can choose to freeze your credit so that nobody else can open up new accounts in your name. You should also create an Experian or Equifax account so that you get automatic notifications if anything suspicious occurs. Each year you can do a free credit check, but you can also get emails from these services if there is a change in your credit report, such as a new loan or credit card opened in your name.

For many of these services, you have the chance to make a secure pin so that only you can check or authorize a check on your credit. For extra protection, you can also pay for an identity protection service like Kroll that protects your name from fraud and gives you proper recourse if thieves open up accounts in your name.

Hire Credible Movers

Be careful about whom you hire, because the wrong “moving company” can take your credit card information and belongings and make a run for it. There are real stories about people who have hired moving companies from a website that copied the same letterhead and branding from real companies, faking every last detail to get a deposit with the customer’s credit card information. These scammers have also taken people’s belongings and held them hostage until the customer paid extra beyond the initial deposit.

The risk seems to increase as the distance between the old house to the new one increases, especially with cross-country moves. So, even if the company appears legitimate, double and triple-check your movers. Consult references, and always keep an eye on your credit card activity. If you can swing it, renting a U-Haul truck and hiring the help of some friends can give you peace of mind. This is easier with a local move for sure, and it’s not always possible when you need to go across state lines, but it can give you more control of the situation.

  • Tip: If your movers want to hold onto your belongings and charge a daily rate, rent a storage unit instead. Not only do you reap significant savings, but you get total control about where your belongings are — and you get 24/7 access to them. This is convenient when your movers have already arrived at the new house’s location, and you can rent a unit in the same area.

Shred Unneeded Documents

At home, you should have many sensitive documents that have your tax information on them like W-2s and 1099 forms. Also, mortgage applications contain social security numbers and driver's license information. This information can give an identity thief a field day. However, if you get rid of these documents, whether it’s through shredding or a small fire pit in the backyard, then you won’t have to worry about your information getting into the wrong hands.

When it comes to vital documents that you absolutely can’t lose, take them with you personally. Birth certificates, vehicle titles, and other valuable records should not be trusted in a moving truck where they can get damaged or misplaced. Keep things secure by investing in a lockbox with a key or combo that only you have access to.

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