Identity (ID) theft is a crime where a thief steals your personal information, such as your full name or Social Security number, to commit fraud. The identity thief can use your information to fraudulently apply for credit, file taxes, or get medical services. 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 and denied loans) down the road from actions that the thief has taken with your stolen identity.
Seven million consumers experienced identity theft in 2017, according to an online survey conducted for Symantec by The Harris Poll in 2018. There was a victim of identity theft every 2 seconds in 2017.
To protect yourself against identity theft:
- Contact the three credit reporting agencies to request a freeze of your credit reports.
- Collect mail promptly. Place a hold on your mail when you are away from home for several days.
- Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess easily. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases.
- Don't respond to unsolicited requests for personal information (your name, birth date, Social Security number, or bank account number) by phone, mail, or online.
- Enable the security features on mobile devices, especially if you have contacts, banking websites and applications saved.
- Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
- Review your credit card and bank account statements. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
- Review your credit report once a year to be certain that it doesn't include accounts that you have not opened.You can order it for free from Annual Credit Report's website
- Secure your Social Security number (SSN). Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your number on your checks. Only give out your SSN when absolutely necessary.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards, to prevent "dumpster divers" from getting your personal information.
- Store personal information in a safe place.
- Update sharing and firewall settings when you're on a public wi-fi network. Consider using a virtual private network, which can give you the privacy of secured private network.
Report Identity Theft
Report identity (ID) theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at the Identity Theft website or by phone at 877-438-4338.