Identity (ID) theft happens when someone steals your personal information to commit fraud. The identity thief may 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’re the victim of ID theft immediately. You could be a victim if you receive:
◦Bills for items you didn't buy
◦Debt collection calls for accounts you didn't open
◦Denials for loan applications
◦Children and seniors are both vulnerable to ID theft
◦Child identity theft may go undetected for many years.
◦Victims may not know until they’re adults, applying for their own loans.
◦Seniors are vulnerable because they share their personal information often with doctors and caregivers.
◦The number of people and offices that access their information put them at risk.
Types of ID Theft
There are several common types of identity theft that can affect you:
◦Tax: Someone uses your Social Security number to falsely file tax returns with the IRS or your state
◦Medical: Someone steals your Medicare ID or health insurance member number. Thieves use this information to get medical services or send fake bills to your health insurer.
◦Social ID theft - Someone uses your name and photos to create a fake account on social media
Take steps to avoid being a victim of identity theft. Secure your internet connections, use security features, and review bills.
Prevent Identity Theft
Keep these tips in mind to protect yourself from identity theft:
◦Secure your Social Security number (SSN). Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Only give out your SSN when absolutely necessary.
◦Don’t share personal information (birthdate, Social Security number, or bank account number) just because someone asks for it.
◦Collect mail every day.Place a hold on your mail when you are away from home for several days.
◦Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
◦Use the security features on your mobile phone.
◦Update sharing and firewall settings when you're on a public wi-fi network. Use a virtual private network, if you use public wi-fi.
◦Review your credit card and bank account statements. Compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
◦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.
◦Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
◦Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases
◦Review your credit reports once a year. Be certain that they don't include accounts that you have not opened. You can order it for free fromAnnualcreditreport.com.
◦Freeze your credit files with Equifax, Experian, Innovis, TransUnion, and theNational Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange for free. Credit freezes prevent someone from applying for and getting approval for credit account or utility services in your name.
Report Identity Theft
◦Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at Identity Theft.govor by phone at 1-877-438-4338.
◦If you report identity theft online,you will receive an identity theft report and a recovery plan.
◦Create an account on the website to update your recovery plan, track your progress, and receive prefilled form letters to send to creditors.
◦If you don't create an account, you won't be able to access the report or letters later.Download the FTC's publication(PDF,Download Adobe Reader)for detailed tips, checklists, and sample letters.
◦If you report identity theft by phone, the FTC will collect the details of your situation. But it won't give you an ID theft report or recovery plan.
◦You may also choose to report your identity theft to your local police station. It could be necessary if:
◦You know the identity thief
◦The thief used your name in an interaction with the police
◦A creditor or another company requires you to provide a police report.
◦Report Specific Types of Identity Theft
◦You may also report specific types of identity theft to other federal agencies.
◦Medical Identity Theft - ContactMedicare’s fraud office, if you have Medicare.
◦You can also report the theft to other organizations, such as:
◦Credit Reporting Agencies - Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies to place fraud alerts or freezes on your accounts. Also get copies of your credit reports, to be sure that no one has already tried to get unauthorized credit accounts with your personal information. Confirm that the credit reporting agency will alert the other two credit reporting agencies.