According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 37 million Americans—roughly 13% of us—move to a different home every year. That’s a lot of transition. Unfortunately, moving season also represents a lot of opportunity for crooks and con artists who want to fleece you financially. “Half of all moves take place between Memorial Day and Labor Day,” says Steve Schwartz, Executive Vice President of Consumer Services for Intersections Inc., an identity theft protection company. “A lot goes into a big relocation, and often times identity protection is not top of mind with everything else that’s going on.” To guard against potential identity theft, Schwartz recommends that consumers take the following steps–before, during, and after a move.—Lynnette Khalfani-Cox
Notify the appropriate companies. You don’t want pre-approved credit card offers, your bank statements, or other important financial documents to wind up in the hands of an identity thief once you’ve relocated. So before your move, notify banks, financial institutions and creditors of your move and have all paper statements and sensitive documents redirected to your new address. Even better, consider switching to online statements.
Submit a Change of Address form at the Post Office. After filing a Change of Address request, watch for a confirmation from the Postal Service. Then verify that your new address has been accurately registered. If so, you should start receiving mail at your new residence within seven to 10 business days after you submit a filing.
Secure your computers. It’s vital that you keep your computer with you and lock it down during a move. You don’t want to give your computer to the movers because your desktop or laptops likely contain a treasure-trove of important data for identity thieves.
Shred, don’t toss, important papers. Any sensitive documents that won’t be going with you should be shred, not just thrown into a trashcan. Identity thieves often go “dumpster diving” to find information or get paperwork they can use to illegally open accounts in your name.
Create a safe zone. After the move, create a “secure zone” where you store your important paperwork and where you can complete sensitive transactions like bookkeeping or paying bills. You want this safety zone to be someplace relatively private, away from the eyes of movers, visitors who might drop by, and even service people who may be coming to connect your utilities.