Protect yourself from identity theft
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.
Identity theft is a serious crime. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years - and their hard-earned money - cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record. In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit.
- On your checks:
- Write your work number on your check, not your home number
- Use initials and a P.O. Box instead of your home address
- Memorize your PIN
- Deposit mail in a USPS mailbox and check your mailbox daily and shred unwanted offers.
- Use eStatements and online bill pay
- Review monthly statements and report suspicious activity.
- Don't respond to emails requesting personal information. No legitimate company (or credit union) will send you an e-mail asking you to verify or send personal information in reply
- Update virus protection software regularly
- Do not download files or click on links sent by people you don't know and use a secure browser with a firewall
- Do not store financial information on your laptop
- Before you dispose of a computer, delete personal information
- Guard your Social Security Number
- Ask employers, creditors and businesses how they will use and secure your personal information
- Keep all surplus checks, infrequently used credit cards and important personal documents in a secure location
- Cancel and destroy unused credit cards
- Review your credit reports annually
- Opt out of mailing lists
- Check your free yearly credit reports
If you think your identity has been stolen, here's what to do now:
1. Contact the fraud department of any of these major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file:
Order report, call: 800-685-1111
Report fraud, call: 800-525-6285
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Order report, call: 888-397-3742
Report fraud, call: 888-397-3742
P.O. Box 9532
Allen TX 75013
Order report, call: 800-888-4213
Report fraud, call: 800-680-7289
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
2. Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Use an identity theft affidavit when disputing new unauthorized accounts.
3. File a police report.
Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.
4. File your complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps them learn more about identity theft and the problems victims are having so they can better assist you.