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He stole your heart, but now that you're getting hitched, the last thing you want is someone else trying to steal your identity, yikes! Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in the case of identity theft, it's more like a bride's worst nightmare. And turns out, marriage makes you a prime target. Because nothing says happily ever after quite like finding out that a stranger is racking up debt on your dime, here are six quick tips, courtesy of Michael Bruemmer, Vice President of Consumer Protection at Experian, to protect yourself from identity theft both during and after wedding planning.
1. Don't pay by check
If at all possible, avoid writing a check, and use your credit card to pay vendors instead, suggests Bruemmer. This way, important personal information, like your home address, bank account and routing number, aren't in the hands of virtual strangers. Also, if you're shopping online for wedding décor, charge it to your credit card as opposed to putting it on your debit.
2. Open a separate bank account
Specifically for the wedding! Designating one account to be used solely for the purpose of making payments to vendors is not only a great budgeting tool, but it'll make catching any fraudulent charges in the future a whole lot easier, points out Bruemmer. While not absolutely necessary, it's definitely a good precaution to take.
3. Be wary of wedding (and honeymoon) deals that sound too good to be true
Because they probably are! Don't let promises of free honeymoons or deeply discounted services trick you into giving away too much information, warns Bruemmer. Keep in mind that even the most basic questions could reveal the answers to your own security questions. "Engaging with wedding vendors is no different from buying anything else; unless you're actually doing the paperwork required to get your marriage license, you should not need to provide your social security number."
4. Think twice about hyphenating your last name
Not that you can't or shouldn't do it, however, it's important to at least be aware of the potential risks. Although it can be a great way to retain one's identity or to appropriately label a newly created family, it also informs the world of what both your maiden and married names are, notes Bruemmer. "A commonly used security prompt is to ask for a maiden name, so this practice could actually make one, or one's offspring, more vulnerable to identity thieves."
5. Change your name in person
Just to be on the safe side, Bruemmer recommends performing most of your identity changing tasks in person. "Walk in to the social security office with your marriage certificate. Don't fax or email it, even if they allow you to," he cautions. And always call any and all banks, credit issuers and other regular business and financial partners to let them know about your marriage and legal name change.
6. Check your credit card activity and statements within a month of marrying
This should be a regular practice anyway, but you'll definitely want to make sure everything is looking normal within 30 days of marrying. "If you're concerned about the risks of identity theft, have the credit reporting agencies set up a 90 day fraud-alert for you," advises Bruemmer.