Protect Your Identity
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is the fraudulent crime in which a thief steals a person's personal identifying information such as full name, a Social Security number, mother's maiden name, date of birth or account number. They then can use your information to fraudulently apply for credit, file taxes, or get medical services, open fraudulent new credit card accounts, charge existing credit card accounts, write share drafts, open share accounts, or obtain new loans.
They may obtain this information by:
- Stealing wallets that contain personal identification information and credit cards.
- Stealing credit union statements from the mail.
- Rummaging through trash for personal data.
- Stealing personal identification information from workplace records.
- Intercepting or otherwise obtaining information transmitted electronically.
These acts can damage your credit status, and cost you time and money to restore your good name. You may not know that you are the victim of ID theft until you experience a financial consequence (mystery bills, credit collections, denied loans) down the road from actions that the thief has taken with your stolen identity.
Types of Common Identity Theft
Other types of common identity theft:
- Child ID theft - Children’s IDs are vulnerable because the theft may go undetected for many years. By the time they are adults, the damage has already been done to their identities.
- Tax ID theft - A thief uses your social security number to falsely file tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service or state government.
- Medical ID theft - This form of ID theft happens when someone steals your personal information, such as your Medicare ID or health insurance member number to get medical services, or to issue fraudulent billing to your health insurance provider.
- Senior ID theft - ID theft schemes that target seniors. Seniors are vulnerable to ID theft because they are in more frequent contact with medical professionals who get their medical insurance information, or caregivers and staff at long-term care facilities that have access to personal information or financial documents.
- Social ID theft - A thief uses your name, photos, and other personal information to create a phony account on a social media platform.
Steps to Prevent Identity Theft
Take these pre-cautionary steps to protect your personal information:
- Do not share important personal or banking information unless you initiated the contact or know whom you are dealing with
- Pay attention to statements. Ensure all charges are what you authorized, if you see unauthorized transactions notify your financial institution.
- Protect your online information by creating complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess easily. As well as install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
- Check your credit report annually. There are resources where you can view your credit report for free.
- Protect your paper information. Collect your mail promptly, store important documents securely and when disposing of important documents or cards be sure to shred the information.
- Don't fall to common scams or unsolicited requests for personal information. Unexpected emails or calls from the IRS are typically a scam. Report these emails or calls immediately.
How to Recover from Identity Theft
If you are a victim of Identity Theft, report it immediately!
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Once filing the ID theft complaint with the FTC, you will have an affidavit assigned to you.
- Contact your local police department to file your ID theft complaint. Once filing the complaint with your local police department, you will get a police report.
- These two documents together are your Identity Theft Report and will aide you in resolving the issue.
- Notify the credit bureaus. By letting the credit bureaus know you have been a victim of fraud, they can add fraud alerts that makes any business or financial entity verify you before they can open accounts, loans, etc.
Take these pre-cautionary steps to protect against phishing, vishing, smishing and pharming:
- Do not reply to the unsolicited e-mail or respond by clicking on a link within the unsolicited e-mail message
- Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail through a secure Web site or a phone number they know to be legitimate
- Enter personal data only on Web sites known to be legitimate and secure—look for a “locked padlock” in the browser or “https” at the beginning of the Web site address for proof of security
- Update anti-virus software and security patches to system software regularly
- Check statements regularly, verify all transactions and notify financial institutions immediately of suspicious transactions
- Forward suspicious e-mails to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org or file a complaint with the FTC at www.ftc.gov or by calling 877-ID-THEFT