Identity Theft

Types of Identity Theft
How Identity Theft Occurs
Protect Your Identity
If You're A Victim
Additional Resources

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name or personal information, such as your Social Security number, driver’s license number, credit card number, telephone number or other account numbers, without your permission. Identity thieves use this information to open credit accounts, bank accounts, telephone service accounts, and make major purchases – all in your name. Information can be used to take over existing accounts or to open new accounts. Identity theft can result in damage to your credit rating and denial of credit.

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Types of Identity Theft
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Data Clearinghouse, the most common types of identity theft are

  • Using or opening a credit card account fraudulently
  • Opening telecommunications or utility accounts fraudulently
  • Passing bad checks or opening a new bank account
  • Getting loans in another person’s name
  • Working in another person’s name

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How Identity Theft Occurs
How identity thieves get your personal information:

  • They steal wallets and purses containing your identification and credit and bank cards.
  • They steal your mail, including your bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, telephone calling cards and tax information.
  • They complete a “change of address form” to divert your mail to another location.
  • They rummage through your trash, or the trash of businesses, for personal data in a practice known as “dumpster diving.”
  • They fraudulently obtain your credit report by posing as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a legitimate need for and a legal right to the information.
  • They get your business or personnel records at work.
  • They find personal information in your home.
  • They use personal information you share on the internet.
  • They buy your personal information from “inside” sources. For example, an identity thief may pay a store employee for information about you that appears on an application for goods, services or credit.

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Protect Your Identity
While there is no guarantee that your identity will never be stolen, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk:

  • Do not give out your Social Security number to people or companies that you don’t know; give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary. Don’t carry your Social Security card; leave it in a secure place.
  • Before disclosing any personal information, make sure you know why it is required and why and how it will be used.
  • Change your driver's license number from your Social Security number to a state assigned number.
  • Shred information you no longer need that contains personally identifiable information and account numbers.
  • Guard your mail from theft. If you’re planning to be away from home and can’t pick up your mail, call the U.S. Postal Service at (800)-275-8777 to request a vacation hold.
  • Secure personal information in your home.
  • Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information.
  • Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year.
  • Pay attention to your billing cycles.
  • Be wary of promotional scams.
  • Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work.

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If You're A Victim

  1. Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus
    Request that a “fraud alert” be placed on your file and include a statement that creditors must get your permission before any new accounts are opened in your name. 
    The three major credit bureaus are:

    To order your report, call: 1-800-685-1111 
    or write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 
    To report fraud, call: 1-800-525-6285 
    and write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

    To order your report, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) 
    or write: P.O. Box 2104, Allen TX 75013 
    To report fraud, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) 
    and write: P.O. Box 9532, Allen TX 75013

    To order your report, call: 800-916-8800 
    or write: P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022. 
    To report fraud, call: 1-800-680-7289 
    and write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

  2. Contact all the creditors involved.
    Let them know that your accounts may have been used without your permission, or that new accounts have been opened in your name. If your accounts have been used fraudulently, ask that new cards and account numbers be issued to you. Check your billing statements carefully and report any fraudulent activity immediately. Many banks and creditors will accept the “ID Theft Affidavit” available at  the Federal Trade Commission, to dispute the fraudulent charges.
  3. File a police report.
    Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others who may require proof of a crime.
  4. Contact the Federal Trade Commission.
    Call the FTC’s ID Theft Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338) to report the theft. Counselors will take your complaint and advise you on how to deal with the credit-related problems that could result from ID theft. The Identity Theft Hotline and the ID Theft website give consumers one place to report the theft to the federal government and receive helpful information.
  5. Keep a record of your contacts.
    Start a file with copies of your credit reports, the police report, any correspondence, and copies of disputed bills. It is also helpful to keep a log of your conversations with creditors, law enforcement officials and other relevant parties. Follow up all phone calls in writing and send all correspondence certified, return receipt requested.

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Additional Resources

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