Identity Theft

Information that Can Help Prevent the Loss of Your Identity

What is identity theft?

Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It’s a serious crime that can wreak havoc with your finances, credit history, and reputation — and can take time, money, and patience to resolve.

Signs of Identity Theft

Be Aware

Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance.

If your wallet, Social Security card, or other personal, financial or account information are lost or stolen, contact the credit reporting companies and place a fraud alert on your credit file. Check your bank and other account statements for unusual activity.

Big image

Keeping Your Personal Information Secure Offline

Lock your financial documents and records in a safe place at home, and lock your wallet or purse in a safe place at work. Keep your information secure from roommates or workers who come into your home.

Limit what you carry. When you go out, take only the identification, credit, and debit cards you need. Leave your Social Security card at home. Make a copy of your Medicare card and black out all but the last four digits on the copy. Carry the copy with you — unless you are going to use your card at the doctor’s office.

Before you share information at your workplace, a business, your child's school, or a doctor's office, ask why they need it, how they will safeguard it, and the consequences of not sharing.

Shred receipts, credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks, bank statements, expired charge cards, and similar documents when you don’t need them any longer.

Destroy the labels on prescription bottles before you throw them out. Don’t share your health plan information with anyone who offers free health services or products.

Keeping Your Personal Information Secure Online

Be Alert to Impersonators

Make sure you know who is getting your personal or financial information. Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you’ve initiated the contact or know who you’re dealing with. If a company that claims to have an account with you sends email asking for personal information, don’t click on links in the email. Instead, type the company name into your web browser, go to their site, and contact them through customer service.

Keep Passwords Private

As easy as it would be to use the same three passwords for everything, it's unsafe. Use strong passwords with your laptop, credit, bank, and other accounts. Be creative: think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. Substitute numbers for some words or letters. For example, “I want to see the Pacific Ocean” could become 1W2CtPo.

Don’t Overshare on Social Networking Sites

If you post too much information about yourself, an identity thief can find information about your life, use it to answer ‘challenge’ questions on your accounts, and get access to your money and personal information. Consider limiting access to your networking page to a small group of people. Never post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number, or account numbers in publicly accessible sites.

Securing Your Social Security Number

Keep a close hold on your Social Security number and ask questions before deciding to share it. Ask if you can use a different kind of identification. If someone asks you to share your SSN or your child’s, ask:

  • why they need it
  • how it will be used
  • how they will protect it
  • what happens if you don’t share the number

The decision to share is yours. A business may not provide you with a service or benefit if you don’t provide your number. Sometimes you will have to share your number. Your employer and financial institutions need your SSN for wage and tax reporting purposes. A business may ask for your SSN so they can check your credit when you apply for a loan, rent an apartment, or sign up for utility service.

What to Do if Your Identity is Stolen

Immediate Steps

  1. Place an initial fraud alert.
  2. Order your credit reports.
  3. Create an identity theft report.

1. Place an Intitial Fraud Alert

Three nationwide credit reporting companies keep records of your credit history. If you think someone has misused your personal or financial information, call

one of the companies and ask them to put an initial fraud alert on your credit report. You must provide proof of your identity. The company you call must tell the other companies about your alert.

An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. When you have an alert on your report, a business must verify your identity before it issues credit in your name, so it may try to contact you. Be sure the credit reporting companies have your current contact information so they can get in touch with you. The initial alert stays on your report for 90 days. It allows you to order one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies.


An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. When you have an alert on your report, a business must verify your identity before it issues credit in your name, so it may try to contact you. Be sure the credit reporting companies have your current contact information so they can get in touch with you. The initial alert stays on your report for 90 days. It allows you to order one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies.

2. Order Your Credit Reports

After you place an initial fraud alert, the credit reporting company will explain your rights and how you can get a copy of your credit report.

Placing an initial fraud alert entitles you to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies.

Contact Businesses

If you know which of your accounts have been tampered with, contact the related businesses. Talk to someone in the fraud department, and follow up in writing. Send your letters by certified mail; ask for a return receipt. That creates a record of your communications. When you read your credit report, you may find unauthorized charges or accounts.

3. Create an Identity Theft Report

An Identity Theft Report helps you deal with credit reporting companies, debt collectors, and businesses that opened accounts in your name. You can use the Report to:

  1. Get fraudulent information removed from your credit report.
  2. Stop a company from collecting debts that result from identity theft, or from selling the debt to another company for collection.
  3. Place an extended fraud alert on your credit report.
  4. Get information from companies about accounts the identity thief opened or misused.


Creating an Identity Theft Report Involves Three Steps:

1. Submit a complaint about the theft to the FTC. When you finish writing all the details, print a copy of the report. It will print as an Identity Theft Affidavit.


2. File a police report about the identity theft, and get a copy of the police report or the report number. Bring your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit when you file a police report.


3. Attach your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit to your police report to make an Identity Theft Report.


Some companies may want more information than the Identity Theft Report includes, or want different information. The information you need to provide depends on the policies of the credit reporting company and the business that sent the information about you to the credit reporting company.


Reduce Your Risk

Review Your Credit Reports

You have the right to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Your credit report may show the first signs that someone has misused your information, so it’s important to check your report a few times a year. Ordering one free report every four months lets you monitor your file and spot errors early.

Read Your Account and Billing Statements

  1. Look for charges you didn’t make.
  2. Be alert for bills that don’t arrive when you expect them.
  3. Follow up if you get credit card or account statements you don’t expect.


Correct any errors as soon as possible.

All information was found on the Federal Trade Commision website. You can go to their website at http://www.ftc.gov/ for more information.

Big image