Identity Theft

Identity theft and fraud refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.  It occurs when someone gains access to a person's basic information, including name, address, credit card or social security number, and uses that information.  Identity theft and fraud affects millions of new victims each year.
How Does Identity Theft Happen?
  • Stolen wallets, purses, computers, cell phones
  • Stolen or diverted mail
  • "Dumpster Diving"
  • Stealing records from an employer
  • From the Internet
  • Skimming credit cards
  • Scams
Common Scams
  • Phishing:  Someone claiming to be from a company or government agency with a problem that you need to take care of right now.  Creates a sense of urgency, hoping you will give them your information.
  • Grandparent:  Someone claiming to be a relative with an emergency, needing money RIGHT NOW!  You can help by wiring them money.  But don't tell mom and dad...
  • Overpayment:  Someone is interested in buying what you are selling.  They issue you a check.  Oops!  The check was made out for too much.  You keep the check and simply send a portion back to them with the item they bought.
  • Nigerian Letter:  Someone claiming to have millions of dollars and they just happen to need your help getting money out of another country.
  • Lottery:  You won a lottery or sweepstakes and you just need to pay some fees to claim your prize.
  • Charity:  False charities are often created after large tragedies.
Preventing Scams
  • Never provide personal information (social security number, credit card or bank account numbers, date of birth, etc.) unless you initiate the contact and are familiar or acquainted with the business!
    • Don't click on links or open attachments in these emails.
    • Use only official contact channels.
  • Make all efforts to verify a story before sending money.
    • Check with relatives, research charities, ask for second opinions.
    • A good rule of thumb is if someone asks you to wire money, it is a scam.
  • You cannot win a lottery, sweepstakes or drawing you never entered.
    • It is illegal to enter foreign lotteries.
    • You do not have to pay for a prize up front.
  • Never accept a check and agree to return the difference.
  • No one would ask you to help them move millions of dollars...especially a total stranger.
Preventing Identity Theft: Reduce Access to Your Personal Data
  • Minimize the number of credit cards you carry in your wallet or purse.
  • Don't carry PINs or social security cards in your wallet or purse.
  • Shred pre-approved credit offers and personal information before you throw away.
  • When creating passwords and PINs, do NOT use digits of your social security number, birth dates, names, or anything that can be easily guessed.
  • Review your bills and bank statements to ensure that no fraudulent activity has taken place.
  • Store your checks in a safe place.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report at least once a year to check for errors.
  • Beware of "Shoulder Surfers" who can obtain your PIN and access your bank accounts.
  • Do not mail bills from your home mailbox.  Use a U.S. Post Office mailbox instead.
  • Remove your name from credit bureau marketing lists. Opt Out by calling 1-888-567-8688.
  • Remove yourself from national telemarketing lists.  Call the National "Do Not Call List" (1-888-382-1222) from the phone number you want removed.  In addition, you can tell telemarketers who call you to put you on their "Do Not Call" list.
Protection on the Computer
  • Maintain current virus protection software and use a firewall.
  • Verify browsers are secure for financial transactions.
  • Avoid automatic log-in features.
  • Delete any personal information before disposing of your computer.
  • Don't respond to unsolicited emails or requests for personal or financial information.  Most legitimate companies will not initiate contact for this information via email.
If You Are an Identity Theft VictimContact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert in your file (shown below).

Experian Equifax TransUnion
888-397-3742 Fraud:  888-766-0008 Fraud:  800-680-7289

  • Contact all financial institutions with whom your name has been used fraudulently by phone and in writing.  Close affected accounts.  Obtain new account numbers.
  • Keep detailed information and copies of all correspondence related to identity theft.
  • Carefully monitor accounts for evidence of new fraudulent activity.  Report immediately.
  • File a report with your local police department.
  • File a complaint with FTC, if needed. (1-877-IDTHEFT or

Information you need to know from the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA)
  • Consumers can get free credit reports from EACH of the credit bureaus once a year.
  • ID theft victims need only notify one of the three credit bureaus.  A 90-day fraud alert must then accompany all credit reports issued by any of them.  Victims can extend alerts for seven years by providing a police report.
  • Businesses where fraudulent accounts were opened have to give the victim account information to assist in resolving the fraudulent situation.  They must accept reports by the victim or the credit bureau.

Federal Trade Commission (ID Theft):  1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338)
United States Postal Service Inspections (Mail Theft)
US State Department (Passport Fraud)
Social Security Administration (To report misuse)
Social Security Administration (To verify earnings):  1-800-772-1213
IRS (Tax Fraud)

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