How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft When Moving
Identity theft protection during a move
Millions of Americans relocate each year for personal reasons or to pursue new careers. And while it’s an exciting time, it’s also a busy process that can leave many people unaware of identity theft risks. Identity theft is when someone purposefully steals a person’s name, social security number or credit card number to obtain financial gain and other benefits. If fraud is committed and not reported quickly, the victim’s credit score could suffer. It’s important to learn about fraud protection when moving to protect yourself and your belongings.
Moving is hectic enough without having to worry about whether or not someone’s going to steal your identity or items. The best protection is to be well-informed, report any fraud and use a trustworthy moving service.
How to protect yourself from identity theft
Research your options
Finding a reputable moving company upfront can be a time-consuming task, but it’s a crucial one. While it’s easy to quickly find moving companies online, you should always be aware of the sites you’re visiting. Practically anyone can build a website that seems legit, so it’s important to do a little background research before choosing a mover. Ask these questions when considering a moving service:
- Do they have a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) number and Motor Carrier (MC) number located on their site?
- Are they licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)?
- Are they Better Business Bureau (BBB) approved?
- Are there any online recommendations or customer reviews?
- Are your family and friends familiar with the company?
If you have trouble answering more than one or two of those questions, proceed with caution. Try another way to determine whether or not a moving service is reliable by using the FMCSA Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) system. This system allows users to enter a DOT number, MC number or the company’s name to determine if it’s real or fake.
Ask about payment method
Stay away from companies that only accept cash as payment. Cash receipts are easily misplaced or thrown away – leaving no proof you paid the large amount. It’s best to pay with a major credit card, money order or a cashier’s check so you always have a record. Companies that ask for large deposits before the move even begins should catch your attention, too.
Create an inventory list
Not all moving scammers want your identity; some just want your stuff. Before the packers and loaders arrive, make a detailed list of all the items being moved. By creating a list you’ll know if you’re missing anything while unpacking. Don’t pack expensive jewelry, medications or important documents. Keep these items with you during the move, preferably in a locked safe that travels with you rather than in the moving truck.
Shred important documents
Moving is a good time to sort through forms and official papers (birth certificates, passports, wills, tax returns, financial statements, medical records, etc.). You’ll probably want to get rid of any that are old or out-of-date. But don’t throw away documents in a trashcan or outside dumpster! Instead, shred all unnecessary forms to help with identity theft protection. Remember to keep the sensitive ones locked up safely.
Secure digital information
Most people probably don’t think about identity thieves stealing information from their electronic devices, but it happens more than you may think. As more personal information is stored on hard-drives and the internet, it’s easy for scammers to gain access through unsecured connections (like Wi-Fi you may use at hotels or restaurants while traveling). Be careful about the types of websites you’re logging in to on these connections – if you can wait to access your bank account, you probably want to take that extra precaution. A few days before moving, safeguard all computers, tablets and cell phones. Create strong passwords and make them different for each device. If possible, store them separately from the other boxes, or preferably, keep them with you throughout the move.
Notify relevant businesses
Seven to 10 days prior to move day, notify businesses of your address change. Official records or financial statements mailed to the wrong address may increase fraud risks. Be sure to contact the U.S. Postal Service first, but other companies to contact include:
- Credit card companies
- Insurance companies
- Healthcare providers
Pay attention to financial statements
During the moving process you’ll likely be swiping your card a lot for things like food, packing supplies, hotel stays, etc. and you may not keep a close track on every purchase through your bank or credit card statements. This could allow scammers who’ve obtained your information to steal money and go unnoticed. If there’s any suspicious activity, immediately contact your financial institutions and also freeze your credit by contacting all three of the credit reporting bureaus (Experian®, TransUnion®, and Equifax®). Continue to regularly check accounts in the months following a move for charges that shouldn’t be there.
Read your moving agreement carefully
The moving company you’ve hired should provide an official contract or service agreement (also call a Bill of Lading). If they don’t, cancel immediately. If they do, read through the entire document before signing it. Ask about anything that you didn’t agree to or about any blank spots on the form.
Supervise the entire move
If possible, be present for the entire move. You’ll feel better knowing you were there to watch everything being loaded into the truck if you aren’t handling your belongings yourself.
Look for other red flags
A red flag is anything that appears suspicious or makes you feel uneasy. Here are a few that stand out and can help with identity theft protection:
- The company doesn’t provide a written quote/estimate via email, mail or in person
- The company doesn’t provide a contract
- The company requires a large deposit or full payment upfront
- The company offers prices drastically lower than competitors
- The company shows up with unmarked trucks and no identification
How do I report moving scams?
In 2015, 17.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft. Hopefully these tips make you more aware so that you’re not a target for moving scammers. But, if it does happen, there are identity theft protection services you can contact for help.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission to report identity theft
- File a complaint on the FMCSA’s consumer website to report a moving scam
- File a complaint with the BBB, too
A safe way to move
More questions about identity theft protection?
If you have additional questions about possible moving scams or how U-Pack keeps your information secure, leave a comment below or contact a consultant at 800-413-4799 – we’re happy to help!