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Identity theft is a serious crime. It happens when someone steals your personal information to commit fraud or other crimes.  If you are a victim then see What To Do if Your Personal Identity Has Been Stolen at the bottom of this page.

It costs you time and money and can destroy your credit and ruin your name.

There are common ways ID theft happens and several things you can do to prevent, detect, and minimize the damage of ID Theft.

If you have ever been a victim of ID theft, or had a credit card / debit card stolen , you know what a hassle it is to cancel and get new accounts/cards. Most major issuers will reverse charges if they are legitimately fraudulent but you have to prove it or at least answer a questionnaire.

ID theft can be very disruptive so be proactive and stop it before it happens.

Read the 9 tips on evaluating Id Theft Companies (id theft protect) for your ID protection


Safeguard your personal information to prevent ID Theft

Steps to prevent your information from getting into the wrong hands:

  • Shred financial documents and paperwork that contain personally identifiable information such as SS#, credit/debit card numbers etc. Shred any credit card offers and convenience checks (from credit card issuers) you receive in the mail.  As technology improves, they find new ways to get your information so shredding may not be enough.

  • Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Don't give out your  social security number for example.  When conducting online purchases, the connection should be secure (i.e. URL should be preceded with HTTPS:) and it should be encyrpted.

  • Never click links in unsolicited emails. Even if you are familiar with the web site or company, Phising (pronounced fishing) schemes will attempt to duplicate the companies brand with the intention of getting you to click the link so they can collect all your credit card information. So instead, manually type in the web address that you know.  Also use firewalls, anti-virus software to protect your computer.

  • Don't use obvious passwords like birthdates, pet's names, mother's maiden name or the last 4 digits of your social security number.

  • Keep your personal information in a secure place at home

  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card when shopping online-you have more protection from fraud

  • Prevent check fraud tips

  • Text Message Phising Can Lead to ID Theft



Detect suspicious activity

Routinely monitor your financial account and statements. Watch for these signs that require immediate attention:

  • Bills that do not arrive as expected

  • Unexpected credit car or account statements

  • Denial of credit for no apparent reason

  • Calls, letters about purchases you didn't make

  • Inspect your credit report Credit reports contain information about you including: your accounts and bill paying history . By law you are allowed 1 report from each of the 3 major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
  • Review your financial statements. Look for items on bank/credit card statements for purchases you didn't make. Most banks and credit card issuers allow you to set up free online accounts. Set one up and monitor frequently. Most will refund your money for purchases you did not make.


Protect Yourself an Minimize The Consequences of  ID Theft

Take action immediately as soon as you suspect it:

  • Place fraud alert on your credit reports. This tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or before they make changes to existing accounts. Placing alerts on your credit accounts entitles you to the free credit reports.

    Look for inquires from companies you haven't contacted, accounts you didn't open and debts or transactions that you cannot explain.

  • Close accounts. Close an account that has been hacked or established fraudulently.
    • Call the security or fraud department of each company where an account was opened or changed without your permission.

    • Use the ID Theft Affidavit from to support your statements.

    • Get verification that the account has been closed and the fraudulent transactions have been discharged.

  • File a police report

  • Report the theft to the FTC 

  • Their are services that can prevent ID theft and alert you when someone attempts to steal your identity.

Common Ways ID Theft Happens

  • Thieves rummage through trash cans looking for bills, canceled checks, credit card statement, bank statements and other documents with your personal information

  • They skim to steal credit and debit card numbers by using special devices when processing your card. There have been instances where some waiters/waitresses have been paid to provide your information to thieves, or they add a few cents to each bill. Be suspicious of clerks/cashiers who take your card for any length of time. Watch for odd looking devices at ATM machines and gas pumps. Shield the keypad when entering your PIN #.

  • Phising (pronounced "fishing"). They pretend to be major banks, financial intuitions, online credit card processing sites in order to steal your info. They send spam emails with links or create pop-up messages asking you to provide passwords or asking you to update your personal information

  • Change of address. They divert your billing statements to another location by filling out change of address forms.

  • Outright stealing. They steal wallets, purses, mail (including credit card statements, bills, bank statements, new blank checks and tax information. They can also steal your personnel records from their employees or bribe employees who have access. Beware of your surroundings.

What To Do if Your Personal Identity Has Been Stolen

  • Contact the three credit bureaus:
    • Experian 888-397-3742
      P.O. Box 9532, Allen Tx 75013
    • Equifax 888-766-0008
      Fraud Assistance
      P.O. Box 105068, Atlanta GA 30348-5069
    • Trans Union 800-680-7289
      Fraud Victims Assistance Dept
      P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634
  • ask the credit bureaus to flag your account with a "fraud alert".
  • Contact creditors for any accounts that may have been opened fraudulently.
    This includes credit card companies, banks or other lenders. Close accounts immediately.
  • Contact the bank and stop payment on any outstanding checks. Cancel your accounts.
  • Have fraudulent entries removed from your credit report.
  • File a police report (and get a copy of the report)
  • Bankruptcy
    If someone filed for bankruptcy in your name write to the US trustee in the region where the bankruptcy was filed.
  • If you applied for a drivers license or ID card and do not receive it within 60 days, cal your local DMV
  • Alert your utility companies: water & trash, gas, electric, telephone/cell phone companies.



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 *Some of the information on this page came directly from the FTC ID theft website and is re-published here for your convenience. 


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