Identity Theft Warnings & Prevention
Identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number or other personal information to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund.
Most people who experience identity theft must take several steps to recover. IdentityTheft.gov is the federal government's one-stop resource to help you report and recover from identity theft. The site provides step-by-step advice and helpful resources like easy-to-print checklists and sample letters.
You might discover that someone is using your information in many ways. You might get a notice from the IRS or find foreign accounts on your credit report. You might notice strange withdrawals from your bank account, get unworthy bills or calls about debts you don't owe. If you see one of these warning signs of identity theft, act quickly. Taking the following steps will help you limit the damage:
- Call the companies where you know fraud occurred
- File a report with your local police department
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and get copies of your report
- Report the identity theft to the FTC
Then, take a deep breath and begin to repair the damage. Depending on your situation, your next step might be closing accounts opened in your name or reporting fraudulent charges to your credit card company.
Protecting Your Identity
While identity theft can happen to anyone, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. The following are five ways to make protecting your identity part of your everyday routine:
- Read your credit card and bank statements carefully and often.
- Know your payment due dates. If a bill doesn't appear when you expect it, look into it.
- Read the messages from your health insurance plan. Make sure the claims paid match the care you got.
- Shred any documents with personal and financial information.
- Review each of your three credit reports at least once a year. Get free reports online. If you space them out by ordering one every three months, you will have year-round coverage for free.
For additional information and resources, visit the FTC identity theft website. Articles include information on Active Duty alerts for military members serving our country, placing fraud alerts on your information, how to keep your child's personal information secure, and more. You can also compare reviews of companies that provide identity theft protection. The site contains information on comparing brands, defining the types of identity theft protection available, describing features included by different companies, and additional information on protecting your child's personal information.
If you think someone is using your personal information to open accounts, file taxes, or make purchases, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report and recover from identity theft.