What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.
What should I know?
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 identifier.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- Read more about identity theft: Deter, Detect, Defend (PDF).
- Take this Identity Theft Quiz from the United States Department of Justice.
- Watch this "Avoid ID Theft" Video from the Federal Trade Commission.
Report Identity Theft
If you are a victim of identity theft, take the following four steps as soon as possible, and keep a record with the details of your conversations and copies of all correspondence:
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports.
- Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
- File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.