Protect Your Identity
While there is no guarantee that your identity will never be stolen, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk:
- Do not give our your Social Security number to people or companies that you don't know; give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary.
- Don't carry your Social Security card; leave it in a secure place.
- Before disclosing any personal information, make sure you know why it is required and why and how it will be used.
- Shred information you no longer need that contains personally identifiable information and account numbers.
- Guard your mail from theft. If you're planning to be away from home and can't pick up your mail, call the US Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 to request a vacation hold.
- Secure personal information in your home
- Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information.
- Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles.
- Be wary of promotional scams
- Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work.
If You're a Victim:
Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus.
Request that a "fraud alert" be placed on your file and include a statement that creditors must get your permission before any new accounts are opened in your name.
The three major credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Contact all the creditors involved
Let them know that your accounts may have been used without your permission, or that new accounts have been opened in your name. if your accounts have been used fraudulently, ask that new cards and account numbers be issued to you. Check your billing statements carefully and report and fraudulent activity immediately. many banks and creditors will accept the "ID Theft Affidavit" to dispute the fraudulent charges.
File a police report
Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others who may require proof of a crime.
- Consult the Consumer Affairs Identify Theft webpage for helpful information and links to theft protection companies that help people monitor their financial accounts and personal information to ensure that their identity has not been stolen or misused.
Contact the Federal Trade Commission.
Call the FTC's ID Theft Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338) to report the theft. Counselors will take your complaint and advise you on how to deal with the credit-related problems that could result from ID theft. The Identity Theft Hot-line and the ID Theft website give consumers one place to report the theft to the federal government and receive helpful information.
Keep a record of your contacts.
Start a file with copies of your credit reports, the police report, any correspondence, and copies of disputed bills. It is also helpful to keep a log of your conversations with creditors, law enforcement officials, and other relevant parties. Follow up all phone calls in writing and send all correspondence by certified mail, return receipt requested.