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ID Theft Information

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft happens when your personal information, typically your Social Security Number (SSN), is stolen and used to commit fraud or theft. The thief can use this information to rent apartments, buy cell phones, access your bank account or obtain loans and credit cards. In worst-case scenarios, thieves can even hold a job or commit a crime using your identity.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, (FTC), as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. A person whose identity has been stolen can spend months—and hundreds of dollars—to clean up their good name or credit record. For more information about Identity Theft, please visit the FTC Web site at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

Minimize Your Risk

Here are a few helpful suggestions to lower the chance it will happen to you.

  • Check your credit report annually. www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • Review your bills and account statements on a regular basis.
  • Guard passwords and PINs that allow you to access your credit card, financial, and phone accounts.
  • Avoid using easily available information such as your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SSN or your phone number for passwords.
  • Guard your mail and trash from theft. An easy way to do this is by shredding items containing personal identifying information.
  • Use caution when giving out personal information.
  • Copy all the contents of your wallet or purse and keep the copies in a secure location.
  • Don't carry your SSN card—leave it in a secure place.
  • Report lost or stolen checks or credit cards immediately.

If You Are a Victim

Identity theft can happen even if you think you have taken precautions to protect yourself. If you suspect your personal information has been misused to commit fraud or theft, take action immediately.

Keep a log of all conversations, including dates, names and phone numbers. Note time spent and any expenses incurred, in case you are able to request restitution in a later judgment or conviction against the thief. Confirm all conversations in writing. Send correspondence by certified mail, return receipt requested. Keep copies of all letters and documents.

  1. Contact the fraud departments for each of the three major credit bureaus and inform them you are an identity theft victim. Request a "fraud alert" be placed on your file and request a copy of your credit report.
    1. Equifax:

      Report fraud: 800-525-6285
      P.O. Box 105069, Atlanta, GA 30348
      www.equifax.com

    2. Experian:

      Report fraud: 888-397-3742
      P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
      www.experian.com

    3. Trans Union:

      Report fraud: 800-680-7289
      P.O. Box 1426, Buffalo, NY 14231
      www.transunion.com

  2. File a police report with your local law enforcement agency or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Ask for a copy of the police report; often credit card companies and others will need proof of the crime to erase the debts caused by identity theft.
  3. Notify your financial institution. If you believe your accounts have been accessed or fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name, close these accounts immediately.
  4. Inform your credit card issuers. Call and write your credit card company or other provider to inform them of fraudulent charges.

Resources

Federal Trade Commission
www.ftc.gov/idtheft
877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338)

Identity Theft Resource Center
www.idtheftcenter.org

U.S. Dept. Of Justice
www.usdoj.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html