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.
While nothing can guarantee that you won’t become a victim
of identity theft, you can take specific steps to minimize your risk, and
minimize the damage if a problem develops. These steps make it more difficult
for identity thieves to steal your identity.
It’s about following the “3 D’s” of identity theft
protection - Deter, Detect and Defend.
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 Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number
on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another
- Don’t give out personal information on the
phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you have initiated the
contact and know who you are dealing with.
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails;
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
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
- Keep your personal information in a secure place
at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having
work done in your house.
Detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your
financial accounts and billing statements
Be alert to signs that require immediate attention:
Mail or bills that do not arrive as expected
Unexpected credit cards or account statements
Denials of credit for no apparent reason
Calls or letters about purchases you did not make
Your credit report. Credit reports have
information about you, including what accounts you have and your bill paying
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
or call 1-877-322-8228, a service created by these
three companies, to order your free credit reports each year. You also can
write: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA
Your financial statements. Review financial
accounts and billing statements regularly, looking for charges you did not
Defend against identity theft as soon as you suspect a
Place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports, and
review the reports carefully. The alert tells creditors to follow certain
procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make certain changes
to your existing accounts. The three nationwide consumer reporting companies
have toll-free numbers for placing an initial 90-day fraud alert; a call to one
company is sufficient:
Placing a fraud alert entitles you to free copies of your
credit reports. Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts
you didn’t open, and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain.
Close accounts. Close any accounts that have been
tampered with or established fraudulently.
the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened
or changed without your okay. Follow up in writing, with copies of supporting
the ID Theft Affidavit at
to support your written statement.
for written verification that the disputed account has been closed and the
fraudulent debts discharged.
copies of documents and records of your conversations about the theft.
File a police report. File a report with law
enforcement officials to help you with creditors who may want proof of the
Report your complaint to the Federal Trade
Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the country in
phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or TTY, 1-866-653-4261
mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC
For more resources visit: