Protect Your Identity
What you need to remember.
The best protection against identity theft is to carefully protect your personal information, for example:
- Do not share personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the internet unless you initiated the contact or know the person you are dealing with;
- Be suspicious if someone contacts you unexpectedly online and asks for your personal information. It doesn’t matter how legitimate the email or website may look. Only open emails that look like they are from people or organizations you know, and even then, be cautious if they look questionable. Be especially wary of emails or websites that have typos or other obvious mistakes;
- Don’t give out valuable personal information in response to unsolicited requests. Social Security numbers, financial account information and your driver’s license number are some of the details that should be kept confidential;
- Shred old receipts, account statements, and unused credit card offers;
- Choose PINs and passwords that would be difficult to guess and avoid using easily identifiable information such as your mother’s maiden name, birth dates, the last four digits of your social security number, or phone numbers;
- Pay attention to billing cycles and account statements and contact your bank if you don’t receive a monthly bill or statement since identity thieves often divert account documentation;
- Review account statements thoroughly to ensure all transactions are authorized;
- Guard your mail from theft, promptly remove incoming mail, and do not leave bill payment envelopes in your mailbox with the flag up for pickup by your mail carrier;
- Obtain your free credit report annually and review your credit history to ensure it is accurate;
- Use an updated security program to protect your computer; and
- Be careful about where and how you conduct financial transactions; for example, don’t use an unsecured Wi-Fi network because someone might be able to access the information you are transmitting or viewing.
What to do if you think your identity has been stolen
If you think you are a victim of a fraud or scam, contact your state, local or federal consumer protection agency. Also, a local law enforcement officer may be able to provide advice and assistance. By promptly reporting fraud, you improve your chances of recovering what you have lost and you help law enforcement. The agency you contact first may take action directly or refer you to another agency better positioned to protect you.
Violations of federal laws should be reported to the federal agency responsible for enforcement. Consumer complaints are used to document patterns of abuse, allowing the agency to take action against a company.
People who have no intention of delivering what is sold, who misrepresent items, send counterfeit goods or otherwise try to trick you out of your money are committing fraud. If you suspect fraud, there are some additional steps to take.
- Contact the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) Consumer Response Center at 1-877-382-4357 or visit its website at www.identitytheft.gov. This website is a one-stop resource and offers step-by-step checklists of what to do right away and what to do next, depending on the information that's been stolen or exposed. It also lists websites and phone numbers of organizations to reach.
- Notify credit card companies and financial institutions.
- If the fraud involved mail or an interstate delivery service, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/ . It is illegal to use the mail to misrepresent or steal money.
- If you shared your Social Security Number, you should also notify the three major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
- Check with the State Attorney General's office.
Protect your children online. Visit www.StaySafeOnline.org for Internet Safety & Security Tips for Parents.