What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone acquires your personal information and
uses it without your knowledge to commit fraud or theft. It is a serious
crime and cases are growing. An all too common example is when an identity
thief uses your personal information to open a credit card account in your
No matter how cautious you are, there is no way to completely prevent
identity theft from occurring. But there are ways you can help minimize your
risk. This page contains valuable information on how you can protect
yourself by managing your personal information wisely, the warning signs of
identity theft, and what to do if you do become a victim.
Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or
over the Internet unless you've initiated the contact or are sure you know
whom you're dealing with.
Don't carry your Social Security card with you; leave it in a secure
place. Carry only the identification and credit and debit cards that you
- Don't put your address, phone number, or drivers license number on
credit card sales receipts.
- Social Security numbers or phone numbers should not be put on your
- Shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance
forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, expired charge
cards that you're discarding, and credit offers you get in the mail.
- Secure your credit card, bank, and phone accounts with passwords.
Avoid using easily available information like birth date, the last four
digits of your SSN, or your phone number. When opening new accounts, you
may find that many businesses still have a line on their applications
for your mother's maiden name. Use a password instead.
- Secure personal information in your home, particularly if you have
roommates or hire outside help.
- Promptly remove mail from your mailbox. If you're planning to be
away from home and can't pick up your mail, call the U.S. Postal Service
at 1-800-275-8777 to request a vacation hold.
- Ask about information security procedures in your workplace. Find
out who has access to your personal information and verify that records
are kept in a secure location. Ask about the disposal procedures for
those records as well.
- Before revealing any personally identifying information (for
example, on an application), find out how it will be used and secured,
and whether it will be shared with others. Ask if you have a choice
about the use of your information. Can you choose to have it kept
Check your credit report
Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major
credit-reporting agencies every year. Make sure it is accurate and includes
only those activities you have authorized. The law allows credit bureaus to
charge you up to $9.00 for a copy of your credit report.
By checking your report on a regular basis you can catch mistakes and fraud
before they wreak havoc on your personal finances. Don't underestimate the
importance of this step.
To order your report, call: 1-800-685-1111
To report fraud, call: 1-800-525-6285
To order your credit report or report fraud, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
To order your report, call: 800-916-8800
To report fraud, call: 1-800-680-7289