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Savant recently hosted Jeff Lanza, a retired FBI special agent of 20 years and an expert in cybercrime and identity theft prevention, in select cities for “Why The FBI Can’t Stop Cybercrime and How You Can.” Now, he’s sharing his inside tips on how to safeguard your identity.

You may never be able to completely prevent identity theft, but there are some steps you can take to help protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Tips from Retired FBI Agent Jeff Lanza: Simple Safeguards to Prevent Identity Theft 

#1: Protect Your Personal Information

  • Don’t carry your social security card. The key to identity theft is your social security number.
  • Don’t provide your social security number to anyone unless there is a legitimate reason, which includes occasions when you are applying for employment, opening a financial account, getting a credit check, and checking or freezing your credit reports.

#2: Protect Your Documents

  • Shred your sensitive trash with a cross-cut, micro-cut, or diamond-cut shredder.
  • Don’t leave outgoing mail with personal information in your mailbox for pickup.

#3: Be Vigilant Against Tricks

  • Never provide personal information to anyone in response to an unsolicited request.
  • Never reply to unsolicited emails from unknown senders or open their attachments.
  • Don’t click on links in emails from unknown senders.

#4: Protect Your Communications

  • Keep your computer and security software updated.
  • Don’t conduct sensitive transactions on a computer that is not under your control.
  • Protect your Wi-Fi with a strong password and WPA2 encryption.

#5: Protect Your Digital World

  • Use strong passwords with at least 12 characters.
  • Use different passwords for your various online accounts.
  • Consider using password management programs. Or use the “Notes” app on your phone, as long as you secure the note with a password.

Four Options to Prevent New Account Fraud

#1: Fraud Alert

Your credit file at the four credit reporting agencies is flagged and a potential lender should take steps to verify the identity of a person opening a new account. Inside scoop on fraud alerts: Not worth the effort. Fraud alerts only work if the merchant takes steps to verify the identity of the applicant. They expire automatically after one year or seven years if you have been a proven victim of identity theft.

#2: Credit Lock

Limits access to your credit reports by some parties without your approval. Inside scoop on credit locks: Don’t use this. Locks are not governed by federal law, there is no guarantee of error free operation, and some credit reporting agencies may charge you a monthly fee for this service.

#3: Credit Monitoring

Your credit files are monitored and if activity occurs, you are notified. Inside scoop on credit monitoring: Credit monitoring does not prevent fraud; it only notifies you when your credit reports have been accessed. In most cases, the monitoring companies provide resolution services, which can be very beneficial.

#4: Credit Freeze

Restricts access to your credit reports and should prevent new account activity in your name. This requires unfreezing (lifting) before you can open a new account. Inside scoop on credit freezes: This is highly recommended and is a proven way to protect against new account fraud. As of September 2018, it is free to freeze your credit reports and to create and freeze credit reports for minors in every state.

Credit Reporting Bureaus

  • Equifax: (800) 525-6285; (800) 685-1111 to freeze your credit report; P.O. Box 740241 Atlanta, GA 30374
  • Experian: (888) 397-3742; (888) 397-3742 to freeze your credit report; P.O. Box 9530 Allen, TX 75013
  • Trans Union: (800) 680-7289; (888) 909-8872 for freezing your credit report; P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
  • Innovis: (800) 540-2505; (800) 540-2505 to freeze your credit report; P.O. Box 1640 Pittsburgh, PA 15230

Every consumer is entitled to four free credit reports each year. To order, go to or call 877-322-8228. For your Innovis credit report, go to

PLEASE NOTE: These tips are being provided for your convenience and for informational purposes only. Savant is not affiliated with Jeff Lanza or any of these credit reporting organizations, does not endorse any products or services provided by them, and does not guarantee the accuracy, effectiveness, and/or completeness of their information. If you ever have security-related concerns, please do not hesitate to call us. We will work closely with you to ensure a rapid and personal response to your concerns. If you are the victim of fraud or identity theft, please contact your Savant advisor or client services representative immediately.