Moving can be a hectic, chaotic time, and it’s easy to forget to take care of every little thing. However, no matter what, you should be vigilant about protecting your personal identity. If your private information should fall into the wrong hands, thieves could ruin your credit, steal your financial assets and make your life more stressful than physically moving your worldly possessions has ever been.
How often have you moved into a new place and continued to receive the mail of previous occupants for months, or even years? People who are careless about their information this way should thank their lucky stars that most humans are honest, because leaving any previous information behind can be a very dangerous thing.
Below are some helpful tips to keep in mind as you go through the moving process to protect your identity from thieves.
1. Submit Your Change of Address with the Post Office
This can be done online or in person, if you prefer paperwork, but the most important thing is to do it early so there will be adequate processing time before your move. It generally takes the Post Office a few days to grant this request, but if you know your moving date and new address, you can enter this information a few weeks ahead of time.
2. Submit Your Change of Address with All Money-Related Institutions
Call or email all banks, personal financial advisors and credit card companies to change your address within their systems. Yes, you’ve already submitted the change of address with the post office, but that won’t last indefinitely, so take care of business and proactively change your address with anyone who handles your money.
3. Submit Your Change of Address with All Medical Institutions
This means every doctor you’ve ever visited, every doctor you’re currently seeing and all medical insurance institutions should be getting a call from you before your move to officially change your address in their records. The last thing you need is for your personal medical information floating around out there for anyone to see, or for your medical benefits to be fraudulently used by strangers.
4. Guard Your Social Security Number
First of all, don’t give out your Social Security number to every company that asks without first finding out what measures they take to protect it. Often, they just use it as a lazy way to generate an account number. They have other means– rarely can they demand your social security number. During a move, be sure to call the Social Security Administration to give them your new address so they won’t be sending your quarterly statements to strangers.
5. Use a Moving Company with a Good Reputation
Check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure your movers are reputable, and get word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted friends before you choose a moving company for your personal belongings. On top of that, be sure they background check all employees. There are countless horror stories where the movers swipe things (including sensitive documents) that aren’t discovered till much later, or they even end up driving away with everything the family owns. Don’t let someone drive away with your life — do the research.
6. Keep the Really Important Stuff with You
Don’t pack computers, hard drives, important documents like birth certificates, passports, house deeds, car titles or anything else difficult to replace if lost or stolen with the rest of your belongings. Let the movers take the furniture and household items in the van and store the valuable documents, jewelry and electronics with you at all times.
7. Be Paranoid
To quote William S. Burroughs: “Sometimes paranoia’s just having all the facts.” So verify the facts and follow up post-move to make sure everyone with whom you changed your address has the new updated information.
A little prevention goes a long way, so shred any documents you throw away in the process of packing, and closely supervise the moving company employees as sometimes your presence alone can deter what might have been seen as an easy opportunity for theft.
Be sure to keep a sharp eye on your credit report during and after a move, because if your identity and financial security have been compromised, you’ll want to know as soon as possible. Also, consider signing up with an identity and credit monitoring company to give you the extra peace of mind that comes with knowing someone is looking out for your interests.
Sara Wells is a writer who blogs on behalf of companies like Protectyourbubble.com, an ID Theft services provider.