What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. A common example is when an identity thief uses someone else’s personal information to open a credit card account in the identity theft victim’s name.
How Identity Thieves Get Information:
- Identity thieves get smarter and smarter regarding ways to steal ID information. The following are commonplace ID theft practices:
- Stolen wallets or purses.
- Stolen mail.
- Residential trash or the trash of local businesses (Dumpster Diving)
- Fraudulently obtained credit reports.Business or personal records from their workplace.
- Personal information shared over the internet.
How Identity Thieves Use Information:
- Open new credit card accounts; make purchases without paying the bills. The delinquent accounts are reported against the victim.
- “Change of Address Forms” is used to divert mail to a different location so time elapses before unauthorized activity is reported.
- Establish phone or wireless services.
- Open new bank accounts and write fraudulent checks.
- Make large purchases, such as an automobile, by applying for loans.
How To Minimize Risk:
Before revealing any personal identification information, find out how it will be used and whether it will be shared with others. Don’t divulge unnecessary information.
Other protections include:
- Pay attention to billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if bills do not arrive on time.
- Deposit outgoing mail at the post office.
- Limit identifying information and credit cards carried to those necessary.
- Do not give out personal information via phone, mail or over the internet to undisclosed sources.
- Request a copy of your credit report annually from any one of the three major credit bureaus for review.
If You Become A Victim:
- If you suspect that someone has been using your personal information, you should contact:
- The fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus
- The creditors of any accounts that have been misused
- The local police to file a report.
- Visit www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/defend.html for a full list of steps to assist you.
Consumer Education Sources:
The following websites provide further information for consumers:
- Federal Trade Commission