ID Theft

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit or bank account information or other identifying information, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft is a serious crime. People whose identities are stolen can spend months or even years, and their hard-earned money, cleaning up the financial 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 did not commit.

To minimize your risk of being a victim of identity theft, never give personal identifying information to someone you don’t know or trust, especially if they contact you by phone, the Internet or mail.

If you are a victim of Identity Theft:

  • Contact the fraud department of any one of the three major credit bureaus (listed below) and place a fraud alert on your credit file. A fraud alert requests that creditors contact you before opening new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. The alert will last for 90 days.
  • 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 that may require proof of the crime.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at (877) 382-4357.
  • Keep records of all phone calls, reports filed, correspondence, etc., and follow up phone conversations with certified letters to confirm your communication.
  • Check your bank and credit card statements regularly and report any unauthorized charges, no matter how small, to your bank or financial institution.
  • Check your credit report once a year to monitor any changes.

How to protect yourself from being a victim of identity theft:

  • Never give personal identifying information to anyone over the telephone or by email. Identity thieves sometimes pose as a business, bank or government agency to sound more legitimate in a scheme to get you to reveal personal information. Legitimate companies or government organizations that do business with you already have this information and will not ask for it over the phone or email.
  • Check your bank and credit card statements regularly and report any unauthorized charges, no matter how small, to your bank or financial institution.
  • Check your credit report once a year to monitor any changes.
  • Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet.
  • Shred all credit card offers, bank and credit card statements, household bills, and all other mail or paperwork that includes personal identifying information before you toss it in the trash.

Under federal law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies. You may obtain a free copy of your credit report by going to www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling (877) 322-8228.

You may contact the nationwide credit reporting agencies at:

Equifax
(800) 525-6285
www.equifax.com

Experian
(888) 397-3742
www.experian.com

TransUnion
(800) 680-7289
www.transunion.com