Protect your identity from fraudsters.
a hand coming out of a laptop screen stealing a credit card from a purse
Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information to commit fraud. These acts can damage your credit status and cost you time and money to restore your good name.
Prevent Identity Theft
Below are some steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft.
- Secure your Social Security number (SSN). Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Only give out your SSN when absolutely necessary.
- Do not share personal information (birthdate, Social Security number, or bank account number) just because someone asks for it.
- Collect mail every day. Place a hold on your mailwhen you are away from home for several days.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
- Use the security features on your mobile phone.
- Update sharing and firewall settings when you’re on a public wi-fi network. Use a virtual private network, if you use public wi-fi.
- Review your credit card and bank account statements. Compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards, to prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
- Store personal information in a safe place.
- Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
- Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases
- Review your credit reports once a year. Be certain that they don’t include accounts that you have not opened. You can order it for free from Annual Credit Report.
- Freeze your credit files with Equifax, Experian, Innovis, TransUnion, and the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange, for free. Credit freezes prevent someone from applying for and getting approval for credit account or utility services in your name.
Report Identity Theft
What do you do once a fraudster steals your identity?
If you report identity theft online, you will receive an identity theft report and a recovery plan. Create an account on the website in order to update your recovery plan, track your progress, and receive prefilled form letters to send to creditors. If you decide not to create an account, you need to print or save your identity theft report and recovery plan. Without an account, you won’t be able to access them on the website in the future. Download the FTC’s publication, Taking Charge – What to do if Your Identity is Stolen for detailed tips, checklists, and sample letters.
You can also report identity theft to the FTC by phone at 1-877-438-4338. The FTC will collect the details of your situation, but won’t provide you with an ID theft report or recovery plan. You may also choose to report your identity theft to your local police station. It could be necessary if:
- You know the identity thief
- The thief used your name in any interaction with the police
- A creditor or another company affected by the identity theft requires you to provide a police report.
Report Specific Types of Identity Theft
You may also report specific types of identity theft to other federal agencies.
- Medical Identity Theft – Contact your health insurance company’s fraud department or Medicare’s fraud office.
- Tax Identity Theft – Report this type of ID theft to the Internal Revenue Service and your state’s Department of Taxation or Revenue.
Report Identity Theft to Other Organizations
In addition to federal government agencies, you should also report the theft to other organizations, such as:
- Credit Reporting Agencies – Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies to place fraud alerts or freezes on your accounts so that no one can apply for credit with your name or social security number. A credit freeze is stronger than a fraud alert and ensures no one can use your credit to open new accounts. Also get copies of your credit reports, to be sure that no one has already tried to get unauthorized credit accounts with your personal information. Confirm that the credit reporting agency will alert the other two credit reporting agencies.
- National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center – Report cases of identity theft that resulted from a stay in a nursing home or long-term care facility.
- Financial Institutions – Contact the fraud department at your bank, credit card issuers and any other places where you have accounts.
- Retailers and Other Companies – Report the crime to companies where the identity thief opened credit accounts or even applied for jobs.
- State Consumer Protection Offices or Attorney General – Your state may offer resources to help you contact creditors, dispute errors and other helpful resources.
You may need to get new personal records or identification cards if your identity was stolen. Learn how to replace your vital identification documents after identity theft.