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The University of Alabama

UA Matters: Protecting Yourself Against Identity Theft

Dr. Caroline Fulmer

Caroline Fulmer

Identity theft is the most prevalent white collar crime in the United States today. The University of Alabama’s Caroline Fulmer helps consumers understand how it occurs, the steps that can be taken to minimize the chances of being a victim and where to get help if they are a victim.

The most common ways identity theft occurs are when your wallet or purse is stolen; records are stolen from inside your home or from your mailbox; you willingly share information with a person who turns out to be a scam artist; using unsecure websites; or your information is stolen from a business.

People should take the following steps to minimize the risk of identity theft:

  • Keep your wallet or purse with you at all times or locked away.
  • Do not carry your social security card, and limit credit cards and other documents in your wallet to those that are absolutely necessary.
  • In your home, put away bank statements, credit card statements, tax documents or anything with personal data on it.  This should be done especially when you have visitors or workers in your home.
  • Stop your mail or have a trusted neighbor collect your mail when you will be away from home.
  • Shred documents containing personal and financial information before throwing them away.
  • Review your bank statements and credit card statements as soon as they arrive to be sure all transactions were made by you.
  • Review your credit report regularly. A free annual credit report can be obtained from each credit bureau at
  • Do not give out financial information over the telephone unless you initiated the phone call.
  • Guard your computer and other electronic devices and password protect them from unauthorized use. Be sure to select passwords that will not be easy for others to figure out.

If you are a victim, a step-by-step guide is available at or phone the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338).

Fulmer is an assistant professor in UA’s College of Human Environmental Sciences’  consumer sciences department.uamatters_logo-thumb

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UA Matters is a weekly posting that offers information and tips on consumer issues facing Alabamians. The information is available to reprint in your publication free of charge. Also, access to subject matter experts is available upon request. For more information, contact Kim Eaton at 205/348-8325 or>.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.