What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft affects an estimated 9 million people every year. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as your name, driver's license number, Social Security number, credit cards or bank information without your permission. This information is used to commit fraud or other crimes.
Ways Thieves Obtain Your Identity
- Dumpster Diving – They will go through your trash to try to find bills, banks statements, or any other paperwork with your personal information on it.
- Phishing – They use internet pop-ups or send you e-mails (spam) pretending to be your bank, credit card company or government agencies. They will send e-mails claiming you won money or someone needs your help, but you have to send them money for processing or to guarantee your claim.
- Change of Address – They complete change-of-address forms to divert your billing or bank statements.
- Skimming – They use special scanning/storage devices to steal credit/debit card information when you card is being processed.
- Stealing – They steal wallets, purses and mail containing credit cards, personal information, etc.
- Fake Websites – Websites which appear to be legitimate companies, but are not actually associated with the company they claim to be. This includes websites with similar URLs to the legitimate website, but are actually based in a foreign country.
- Shred information – Shred your personal information before throwing it away.
- Check your mail – Check your mail frequently, and do not allow your mailbox to get filled with mail. If you are sending mail, drop it off in a U.S. Postal Service collection box or at the Post Office.
- Beware of callers – Do not give out information to anyone on the phone unless you are sure they are from the business they claim to be. If you are not sure, you can always call the business back using the phone numbers listed on your statement or other documentation.
- Beware of unsolicited e-mail – Do not send personal information via e-mail in response to unsolicited e-mails.
- Be aware of your surroundings – Do not let people look over your shoulder while entering your PIN. If something about the credit card reader, such as at ATMs or gas pumps, looks out of the ordinary, do not use it and report it to the business.
- Monitor your credit reports – Check your credit report. Federal Law allows you to get one free credit report a year from each of the credit bureaus.
- Double check web addresses – Check to make sure there are not additional characters and the correct suffix (ex. .com, .net, .gov, etc.) are correct. Websites based in other countries will usually have suffixes indicating their country of origin (ex. .CA for Canada, .MX for Mexico). For a list of Country Codes, click here.
What to do if your identity has been stolen?
- Complete the Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Victim's Complaint and Affidavit.
- Contact your bank, credit card companies, and the three major credit bureaus.
- Contact law enforcement and make a report.
More Information on Online Crimes and Identity Safety
- Federal Trade Commission
- Social Security Administration
- Consumer Affairs
- Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3)