Identity Theft . . . Get the facts and stay safe.

What is identity theft? 

How can someone steal your identity? 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.

How do they go about stealing my identity?

Identity thieves may use a variety of low- and high-tech methods to gain access to your personally identifying information. For example:

How can I tell if I'm a victim of identity theft?

Although any of these indications could be a result of a simple error, you should not assume that there’s been a mistake and do nothing. Always follow up with the business or institution to find out. 

What can I do to protect myself?

As with any crime,  you can't guarantee that you will never be a victim, but you can minimize your risk. By managing your personal information widely, cautiously and with an awareness of the issue, you can help guard against identity theft.

Information on Credit Bureaus

If an identity thief is opening new credit accounts in your name, these accounts are likely to show up on your credit report. You can find out by ordering a copy of your credit report from any of three major credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.  Check your report carefully to make sure it is accurate. See What should I look for on a credit report to indicate identity theft? If you do find any inaccurate information, you should check your reports from the other two credit bureaus. Note: If your personal information has been lost or stolen, you should check all of your reports more frequently for the first year.

 

DID YOU KNOW?  

A great way to keep tabs on your identity, and find out FAST if someone is opening accounts or credit cards in your name, is by checking your credit report.  Now you can do it for free!  A recent amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months, from www.annualcreditreport.com. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, has prepared a brochure, Your Access to Free Credit Reports, explaining your rights and how to order a free annual credit report.

 TIP:  Since you get one free report from each of the 3 bureaus per year, do not request them all at once.  Spread them out, since you then get three free "snapshots" of your credit per year - all the better to thwart Identity Theft!