spring cleaning identity theftSpring is finally upon us, which means it’s time for spring cleaning. While this phrase might make you think of clearing out the gutters or finally tackling all those boxes stacked up in the garage, you can also use spring cleaning to get other areas of your life besides clutter in order. Identity theft is a growing danger in the U.S., so it’s important to take as many steps as you can towards making yourself less at risk. Believe it or not, there are a number of things you can incorporate into your annual spring cleaning ritual to minimize your potential for identity theft.

Identity theft spring cleaning checklist

1. Shred or file old documents or mail. We all have a bad habit of letting documents and mail pile up. Unfortunately, papers containing your personal information can be prime targets for identity thieves to gather what they need to commit fraud in your name. If you have lots of papers piled up, unsorted, it’s time to tackle those stacks and figure out whether you need any of it or not. Keep what you need and file it away in a locking file cabinet or consider scanning the documents to create a virtual copy that’s password protected. Shred — don’t toss — what you won’t miss. It’s important to look for a shredder that cross cuts to ensure documents are completely destroyed and unable to be pieced back together.

2. Go paperless. One way you can reduce the amount of paper that needs to be dealt with is to go paperless whenever you can. Many banks, credit cards, utilities and other services now let you opt for paperless billing. This means, instead of receiving a statement in the mail, you’ll get it by email. This will help cut down on clutter and also reduce the likelihood of someone getting your personal information from paperwork lying around your home or in your trash.

3. Change your passwords. Ideally, you should change your passwords regularly. But if you haven’t done so in quite a while, now is the time to get it done. It’s recommended that you change your passwords at least every six months, although for some accounts like your online banking, it’s best to change every three months. Click here to learn more about choosing an effective password. You should also enable two-factor authentication (also known as two-step verification) on any websites you use which offer it. This security process requires two types of identification when you log into your account, rather than just your password, which increases the security. You can find out which websites and apps you use offer two-factor authentication at www.twofactorauth.org.

4. Request your free credit reports. You are entitled to one free copy of your credit reports from the three major bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — once a year. If you haven’t already requested your copy, you should do so now. Reviewing your credit reports is one of the best ways to spot potential fraud and keep track of what your credit looks like. If you’ve already obtained your credit reports this year but would like to stay up-to-date on them and be alerted to any changes, you may want to sign up for a credit report monitoring service.

5. Consider signing up for identity theft protection. These services offer all kinds of features to help protect your identity year round. Some of these features include daily monitoring of the Internet black market and public records to ensure your personal information is not being misused, traded or sold, as well as three-bureau credit report monitoring. Looking to protect your entire family? Some services offer great plans to cover your entire household. The best part is, most identity theft protection services are budget-friendly, with plans costing $20/month or less.

While all of these suggestions are great for spring cleaning, it’s important to remember you can keep them up all year round. For more tips and information about protecting your identity, check out our identity theft protection blog.