Identity Theft and What to Do
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses another person's personal information such
as name, Social Security number, driver's license number, credit card number, or other
identifying information to take on that person's identity in order to commit fraud
or other crimes.
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
The following tips can help lower your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card or other cards that show your SSN. Read "Your Social Security Number: Controlling the Key to Identity Theft" and "Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number".
- Use caution when giving out your personal information. Scam artists "phish" for victims by pretending to be banks, stores or government agencies.
They do this over the phone, in e-mails, and in postal mail. Most institutions wouldn't
ask for your SSN or other personal information over the phone, and many emphasize
that they do not ask for this information. Do not send your SSN or credit card information
via email. If you wouldn't feel comfortable putting this information on a postcard,
you probably wouldn't want to send it by email either.
- Treat your trash carefully. Shred or destroy papers containing your personal information including credit card
offers and "convenience checks" that you don't use.
- Protect your postal mail. Retrieve mail promptly. Discontinue delivery while out of town.
- Check your bills and bank statements. Open your credit card bills and bank statements right away. Check carefully for any
unauthorized charges or withdrawals and report them immediately. Call if bills don't
arrive on time. It may mean that someone has changed contact information to hide fraudulent
- Check your credit reports. Review your credit report at least once a year. Check for changed addresses and fraudulent
- Freeze your credit. If you do not plan on conducting any activities that require third parties to run
a credit report of you, you can freeze your credit reports. This will prevent attackers
from obtaining credit histories and opening new lines of credit. You can learn more
about credit freeze here - https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs.
- Stop pre-approved credit offers. Pre-approved credit card offers are a target for identity thieves who steal your mail.
Have your name removed from credit bureau marketing lists. Call toll-free 888-5OPTOUT
- Ask questions. Ask questions whenever you are asked for personal information that seems inappropriate
for the transaction. Ask how the information will be used and if it will be shared.
Ask how it will be protected. If you're not satisfied with the answers, don't give
your personal information.
- Protect your computer. Protect personal information on your computer by following good security practices.
- Use strong, non-easily guessed passwords.
- Use firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software that you update regularly.
- Download software only from sites you know and trust and only after reading all the
terms and conditions.
- Don't click on links in pop-up windows or in spam e-mail.
- Use caution on the Web. When shopping online, check out a Web site before entering your credit card number
out of information sharing. Only enter personal information on secure Web pages that
encrypt your data in transit. You can often tell if a page is secure if "https" is
in URL or if there is a padlock icon on the browser window.
Steps to Take if Your Data Becomes Compromised or Stolen
Credit Reporting Agencies: If you have reason to believe your personal information has been compromised or stolen,
contact the Fraud Department of one of the three major credit bureaus listed below.
Individuals whose personal information was involved in this incident may request a
fraud alert to be placed on their credit files by calling any one of the three major
national credit bureaus or completing an online form. Submit one online form request
and all three agencies will add the fraud alert.
Direct Line for reporting suspected fraud: 800-525-6285
P.O. Box 740250
Atlanta, GA 30374
800-685-1111 / 888-766-0008
Direct Line for reporting suspected fraud: 888-397-3742
Credit Fraud Center
P.O. Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013
- Trans Union
Direct Line for reporting suspected fraud: 800-680-7289
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634
Phone: 800-916-8800 / 800-680-7289
When contacting the Credit Reporting Agency, areas of focus would include:
- Instruct them to flag your file with a fraud alert including a statement that creditors
should get your permission before opening any new accounts in your name.
- Ask them for copies of your credit report(s). (Credit bureaus must give you a free
copy of your report if it is inaccurate because of suspected fraud.) Review your reports
carefully to make sure no additional fraudulent accounts have been opened in your
name or unauthorized changes made to your existing accounts. NOTE: In order to ensure
that you are issued free credit reports, we strongly encourage you to contact the
agency's DIRECT LINE (listed above) for reporting fraud. We do not recommend that
you order your credit report online.
- You may want to ask about the option to freeze your credit. Forty-seven states and
the District of Columbia have enacted legislation allowing consumers to place "security freeze" on their credit reports. A consumer report security freezes limits a consumer reporting
agency from releasing a credit report or any information from the report without authorization
from the consumer. Check your state's information.
- Be diligent in following up on your accounts. In the months following an incident,
order new copies of your reports to verify your corrections and changes, and to make
sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
- If you find that any accounts have been tampered with or opened fraudulently, close
them immediately. To ensure that you do not become responsible for any debts or charges,
use the ID Theft Affidavit Form developed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to
help make your case with creditors.
You may request an annual credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com as recommended
by the Federal Trade Commission.
Social Security Administration
SSA Fraud Hotline: 800-269-0271
If you are the victim of a stolen Social Security number, the SSA can provide information
on how to report the fraudulent use of your number and how to correct your earnings
record. We encourage you to contact the SSA Fraud Hotline immediately once you suspect
identity theft. The website also provides tips on using and securing your Social Security
number. Visit the SSA website for advice on keeping your number safe. Additionally,
you should create an account on SSA website regardless of your retirement age.
ID Theft Clearinghouse
Call the ID Theft Clearinghouse toll free at to report identity theft. Counselors
will take your complaint and advise you how to deal with the credit-related problems
that could result from identity theft.
Local Law Enforcement
It is important that you report identity theft to your local police department as
soon as you become aware that you are a victim. Get a copy of the police report which
will assist you when notifying creditors, credit reporting agencies, and if necessary,
the Social Security Administration (SSA).
The following links provide detailed information related to identity theft and protecting
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). It is attributed to Dean Woodbeck and
Valerie Vogel, and the original version can be found on the Internet2 site available
here - https://spaces.internet2.edu/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=50528489