Identity Theft (definition): When someone uses your name or personal information, such as your Social Security number, driver’s license number, credit card information, or other account information without your permission.
Identity thieves frequently:
- Open new accounts in a victim’s name
- Apply for new credit cards using the victim’s information, make charges, and leave the bills unpaid
- Set up telephone or utility service in a victim’s name
- Apply for loans, apartments, and mortgages in a victim’s name
Identity theft can result in damage to your credit rating – damage that could take years to fix. Generally, victims of credit and banking fraud are liable for no more than the first $50 of the loss. In many cases, the victim will not be required to pay any part of the loss.
To reduce your risk of identity theft:
- Protect your personal information and do not carry your Social Security card with you
- Shred items that contain your personal information and account numbers
- Keep your mail safe and store your personal information in a safe place
- Order your credit report at least once a year to make sure no one is using your identity to open account
If you think your identity has been stolen, take the following steps:
- Contact the three major credit bureaus. Contact the fraud departments of all of the three major credit departments (click here for contact information) to place a fraud alert on your credit file. The initial fraud alert is for 90 days. You can ask for an extended fraud alert if you file a police report.
- Close accounts. Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- File a police report. Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others who require proof of the crime.
- File your complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases, which is used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps us learn more about identity theft and the problems it causes victims.