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Identity Theft
Basic Information

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. The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name.

Many millions of people have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft.

This center contains information to help prevent identity theft from occurring and to help restore your credit following an identity theft occurrence.

  • What is Identity Theft?
  • Avoiding Identity Theft
  • Recovering from Identity Theft 
  • Forms/Tools to Assist with Resolving Identity Theft-Related Disputes


Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

How can I deter identity theft?

  • Identity theft is a serious crime that occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes.
  • Identity theft can destroy your credit and ruin your good name.
  • Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
  • Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
  • Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Avoid disclosing personal financial information when using public wireless connections.
  • Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date.
  • If you use Peer-to-Peer file sharing, check the settings to make sure you are not sharing your sensitive private files with other users. Visit for more information.
  • Don't use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother's maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
  • Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done in your house.
  • Detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements.
  • Inspect your credit report. Credit reports contain information about you, including what accounts you have and your bill paying history.

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What are the steps I should take if I'm a victim of identity theft?

  • If you are a victim of identity theft, take the following four steps as soon as possible, and keep a record with the details of your conversations and copies of all correspondence.
  • 1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports.
  • 2. Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
  • 3. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
  • 4. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.

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