What to know, What to do
Identity theft is a serious crime. It can disrupt your finances, credit history, reputation, and will take time, money, and patience to resolve. Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission.
How to Protect Your Information
- Read your credit reports.
- Read your bank, credit card, and account statements, and the explanation of medical benefits from your health plan.
- Shred all documents that show personal, financial, and medical information before you throw them away.
- Don't respond to email, text, and phone messages that ask for personal information.
- Create passwords that mix letters, numbers, and special characters.
- If you shop or bank online, use websites that protect your financial information with encryption.
- If you use a public wireless network, don't send information to any website that isn't fully encrypted.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall on your computer.
- Set your computer's operating system, web browser, and security system to update automatically.
Red Flags of Identity Theft
- Mistakes on your bank, credit card, or other account statements
- Mistakes on the explanation of medical benefits from your health plan
- Your regular bill and account statements don't arrive on time
- Bills or collection notices for products or services you never received
- Calls from debt collectors about debts that don't belong to you
- A notice from the IRS that someone used your social security number
- Mail, email, or calls about accounts or jobs in your minor child's name
- Unwarranted collection notices on your credit report
- Businesses turn down your checks
- You are turned down unexpectedly for a loan or job
If Your Identity is Stolen...
If you suspect that someone has stolen your identity, acting quickly is the best way to limit the damage. Setting things straight involves some work. The following guide has tips, worksheets, blank forms, and sample letters to guide you through the recovery process. It covers:
- what identity theft victims must do immediately
- what problems may crop up
- how you can reduce your risk of identity theft
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, prepared this guide to help you repair the damage that identity theft can cause, and reduce the risk of identity theft happening to you.
Information courtesy of, and for more information visit: ftc.gov/Idtheft
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the federal clearinghouse for complaints by victims of identity theft. Although the FTC does not have the authority to bring criminal cases, it can assist victims by providing information to help resolve problems that can result from identity theft. Should you find yourself a victim of identity theft, you can file a complaint with the FTC by calling toll-free 1.877.ID.THEFT (438.4338).