When you’re facing a major move, you’ve got a lot on your mind, from shipping your possessions to finding health care providers.
But perhaps just as important as all of those considerations is your credit, which can pose problems during your move precisely when you’re probably not paying close attention.
According to 2014 Census Bureau data, relocation was a reality for 11.7 percent of Americans last year — a sizable population of people distracted by the realities of shifting ZIP codes.
Need self-storage for your move? Visit SelfStorage.com.
A lack of vigilance could leave people more vulnerable to identity theft and other financial slip-ups.
For example, some thieves take advantage of someone’s various changing addresses in the process of a move, said Kevin Haney, owner of ASK Benefit Solutions, an employee benefits firm.
“Identity thieves apply for credit using your name, Social Security number and date-of-birth information, and have the new card sent to a new address,” Haney said.
We spoke with several financial experts to get their tips for preventing problems with your credit during your upcoming relocation.
1. Don’t go credit crazy.
First, if you’re going to be in the process of buying a new home or even renting an apartment, know that your credit score will be subject to scrutiny from lenders. Opening up new lines of credit or making major purchases can ding your score and affect your creditworthiness.
2. Spread the word.
Change your address with all of your banks, credit card companies and any other organizations that regularly send you mail, said Becky Frost, senior manger of consumer education for Experian’s ProtectMyID program.
“Identity theft is often carried out by stealing mail,” Frost said. “The people who move into your old residence won’t necessarily steal your identity, but they will most likely throw out mail that isn’t theirs and they won’t necessarily take the care to shred it as you would.”
You also should set up a forwarding address with the U.S. Postal Service, which you can do weeks in advance of your move.
3. Get acquainted with auto-pay.
Auto-payment can be a great tool for people distracted by a major move.
It’s hard enough to keep track of all of the things that require your immediate attention during relocation. Add on credit card bills, and you’ve got a recipe for late payments, along with related fees and hiked interest rates.
Instead, set up auto-payments so you’ll have one less thing to worry about, and your credit score will come through the move unscathed.
One additional note about auto-pay: Go through any current auto-payment arrangements you may have established in the town you’re leaving. Newspaper subscriptions and gym memberships are examples of subscriptions you’ll want to cancel before you leave town.
4. Shred your docs.
Moving is a great opportunity to unclutter your files, especially old documents you no longer need. But think carefully before you throw them in the trash or the recycling bin. Anything with sensitive financial information, including credit card numbers and information, could be dangerous in the wrong hands.
“Shred sensitive personal documents you don’t need to keep,” Frost said.
5. Monitor your identity.
When you’re packing your boxes, bear in mind that documents that are moving with you containing any financial information should stay with you. Don’t let them get shipped on the moving truck.
“Regardless of whether you move yourself or use a moving company, keep your important documents with you in a secure place,” Frost said. “When it comes to your identity, a filing cabinet in a trailer isn’t secure enough.”
This rule also applies to your tech devices, such as smartphones, computers and tablets that may store your financial information. “Make sure your devices are securely packed in unmarked packaging and that they are locked with strong passwords,” Frost said.
6. Be vigilant.
Check your credit card statements daily or sign up for a service that will monitor your credit for unusual changes.
“This way, you can stay on top of your most recent charges,” said Robert Siciliano, identity theft expert for bestidtheftcompanys.com. “Download your bank’s or credit card company’s smartphone app so you can check your statements more frequently, and go to the company’s website and sign up for alerts so you are notified of charges.”
If unusual charges do pop up, notify the appropriate company right away.