Is someone pretending to be you?
Are you getting bills for purchases you didn’t make, or has the IRS informed you that a tax return has already been filed in your name? If so, don’t ignore these warning signs of identity theft.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft affects millions of Americans each year. It occurs when someone steals your personal information (e.g., credit card or Social Security number) and uses it to open credit accounts or file fraudulent tax returns to claim your refund. Thieves may get this information through a number of ways, such as:
- Digging through your trash
- Robbing your mailbox
- Stealing your wallet or purse
- Using “phishing” or fake emails to get you to provide personal information
- Stealing personnel records from their employers
- Hacking data networks of companies that have your information (insurance, email, social media, etc.)
What can you do?
Safeguard your sensitive information
Monitor your accounts and financial statements for suspicious activity
Take action to prevent further damage
You can help deter identity thieves by safeguarding your sensitive information.
- Shred financial documents before discarding them
- Protect your Social Security number
- Don’t give out personal information unless you’re sure who you’re dealing with
- Don’t use obvious passwords
- Keep your information secure
You should routinely monitor your financial accounts and billing statements to detect any suspicious activity.
- Be alert for missing mail or bills
- Beware of denials of credit for no reason
- Inspect your credit report
- Law entitles you to one free report a year from each nationwide credit reporting agencies if you ask for it
- Online: AnnualCreditReport.com
- By phone: 1-877-322-8228
- By mail: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
- Inspect your financial statements for charges you did not make
Recovering from identity theft can be a long, stressful and possibly expensive process. If you suspect you may be a victim, you should act now to defend against further damage.
- Place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports by calling any one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies:
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
- Review reports carefully, looking for fraudulent activity
- Close accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently
- File a police report
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission has developed online resources to help you recover from identity theft.