Identity Theft

Identity theft is a serious crime.  It occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can cost you time and money.  It can destroy your credit and ruin your good name. 

Deter identity thieves by safeguarding your information.  
Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
Protect your Social Security number.  Don’t carry your card in your wallet or write your number on a check.  Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.

Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
Never click on links sent in unsolicited e-mails; instead, type in a web address you know.  Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date.  Visit OnGuardOnline.gov for more information.
Don’t use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother’s maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
Keep you personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your home.

Detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements.   
 
Inspect your credit report.  Credit report contain information about you, including what accounts you have and  your bill pay history.  The law requires the major nationwide consumer reporting companies-Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion-to give you a free copy of your credit report each year if you ask for it.  Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com  or call 1-877-322-8228, a service created by these three companies, to order your free credit reports each year.  You can also write: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
 
Defend against ID theft as soon as you suspect it.  
 
Common Ways ID theft happens:
Dumpster Diving.  Thieves rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
Skimming.  They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
Phishing.  They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
Changing your address.  They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a “change of address” form.   
“Old Fashioned” Stealing.  The steal wallets and pruses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information.  They steal personal records from their employers, or bribe employees who access.  
 
To learn more about ID theft and how to deter, detect, and defend against it visit ftc.gov/idtheft.