UNDERSTANDING IDENTITY THEFT
Identity theft, sometimes referred to as identity fraud, is a crime that
involves someone using your personal information — such as your name, Social
Security number, credit card number or other financial account information —
without your permission to commit fraud and/or other crimes.
Identity theft occurs in many forms, such as someone using your stolen
personal information to apply for loans or purchase items using your credit
card number, along with many other fraudulent activities.
Tips to Protect Your Identity
Know what’s in your wallet. Avoid carrying your Social
Security number in your wallet or purse. This number provides access to
personal information, and it should be stored in a safe and protected
place. In addition, only carry the credit cards you need. This practice
limits access to your accounts in the event that your purse or wallet is
lost or stolen. It’s also a good idea to periodically photocopy your
cards and keep a record of the customer service phone numbers associated
with your financial accounts to speed up the process of cancelling
credit cards, if needed.
Shred, shred, shred. Open all mail and read it
carefully—even the items that might appear to be junk mail could contain
personal offers. Any items with personal information, such as
pre-approved credit offers, bank statements or utility bills should be
shredded before being discarded.
Be suspicious of solicitors. You should never give
personal information or your Social Security number to people unless you
have verified that they are trustworthy. This advice applies to sharing
information over the phone, in-store or online.
Monitor your revolving accounts and credit score. Check
your bank, credit card and other financial account information, along
with your credit score, once a year to reduce the risk of unauthorized
charges or credit applications. If you see a suspicious charge,
immediately contact your financial institution.
Take action against unauthorized actions. If you notice
a new account has been opened in your name without your permission,
immediately contact one of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax,
Experian or TransUnion—and ask that a “fraud alert” be placed on your
record. Once the alert is placed, the other two bureaus will be
notified, and creditors will be required to contact you directly before
opening new accounts or making changes to existing accounts. In
addition, file a police report and submit a complaint to the Federal
Trade Commission. You also might consider enrolling in paid services
that monitor your credit report and alert you when someone applies for
credit in your name or account information is altered.
Surf the Internet safely. Millions of people are online
at any given time, some of whom are thieves looking to steal your
identity. These hackers can be found collecting information from
unsuspecting “pop-ups,” surfing unsecured networks or hacking into
retail Web sites. Be sure to always use a secured network, and
frequently update firewall protections on your computer. Also limit the
amount of personal information you post on networking Web sites.
Consider purchasing identity theft insurance. Several
insurance companies offer identity theft insurance. Although it cannot
protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft, this insurance
provides coverage for the cost of reclaiming your financial identity,
such as the expenses of placing phone calls, making copies, mailing
documents, taking time off from work without pay and hiring an attorney.
As with any insurance policy, make sure you understand what you are
purchasing and compare prices, coverages and deductibles among multiple
Some insurance companies offer identity theft insurance as
an endorsement on a home or auto policy, which covers lost wages,
out-of-pocket costs, and other expenses associated with repairing credit
damaged through identity theft.
Insurance agents can offer consumers information
about whether their home or auto insurance company offers identity theft
coverage and to learn the details of the services the coverage may provide.
Other ways to protect against identity theft are
available on the Department of Financial Services' Web site at