It’s Your Money Column – Reduce Your Risk of Identity Theft

I recently attended a conference sponsored by the Denver District Attorney’s Office dealing with the issue of identity fraud. One of the speakers was a former methamphetamine user who was a genius at stealing people’s identities. If you’ve seen the movie "Catch Me If You Can," you know how someone can produce false identity cards, checks and other documents and then run away with your money.

Are you at risk for identity theft? Answer the following questions developed by the Denver District Attorney’s Office and add up your score.

1. I use checks for shopping and carry my checkbook with me in public (10 points).

2. I pay bills with checks and place them in my mailbox or in a corner postal box (10 points).

3. I do not use direct deposit or electronic transfer for paychecks, refund or insurance claim checks (10 points).

4. I have new boxes of checks mailed to my home (10 points).

5. I have not "opted out" of my credit card issuers’ marketing programs and receive "convenience" checks on my card account in the mail (10 points).

6. I carry a purse or keep my wallet in my back pocket (10 points).

7. I have at least one item in my wallet with my Social Security number (10 points).

8. I carry more than two credit cards with me and/or have not copied the front and back of each card – and know where the copies are (5 points).

9. I do not shred banking/credit/tax information before trashing (10 points).

10. I used a shredder, but it is not a cross-cut shredder (5 points).

11. I have not called the credit card reporting agencies’ "opt-out line" to be removed from credit card application mailings (888-567-8688) (5 points).

12. I have not ordered copies of my credit report in two years (10 points).


– 100+ points: You are at high risk – more than one million people will become victims of identity theft this year.

– 50-100 points: Your odds of being victimized are about average.

– Below 50 points: Congratulations – you have low vulnerability.

One of the most important steps you can take to avoid identity theft is to use a cross-cut shredder to destroy all documents you wouldn’t want a thief to get. The Colorado con said, "The number-one way I get identity information is sifting through people’s trash."

by Judy McKenna, Ph.D., CFP, Family Economics Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension,, 491-5772