Avoid Identity Theft: Deter, Detect, & Defend
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Identity theft is a serious crime. It occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can cost you time and money. It can destroy your credit and ruin your good name.

Deter identity thieves by safeguarding your information:

  • 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 the 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.
  • Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a web address you know.
  • Don't use an obvious password like your birthdate, 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 home.

Detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements. Be alert to the following signs that require immediate attention:

  • Bills that do not arrive as expected
  • Unexpected credit cards or account statements
  • Denials of credit for no apparent reason
  • Calls or letters about purchases you did not make

Be sure to inspect your credit reports routinely because they contain information about you, including what accounts you have and your bill paying history. Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 to order your free credit reports each year.

Defend against ID theft as soon as you suspect it:

  • Place a "Fraud Alert" on your credit reports, and review the reports carefully. The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts.
  • Close accounts. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently.
  • File a police report. File a report with law enforcement officials to help you with creditors who may want proof of the crime.
  • Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Your report helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigations.

To learn more about ID theft and how to deter, detect, and defend against it, visit ftc.gov/idtheft or request copies of additional ID theft resources by writing to:

Consumer Response Center
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, H-130
Washington, DC 20580