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Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. While it’s impossible to guard your personal information absolutely, you can take a number of steps to protect yourself. Below, you’ll find more information on the causes and complications of identity theft, and some steps you can take to combat it:

What is Identity Theft?

Identify theft is the use of an individual’s personal and/or financial information to make purchases, apply for credit, or otherwise commit fraud. One of the most common types of identity theft is to use someone’s information to open a credit card account.

How Does Identity Theft Occur?

There is no one way that personal and/or financial information is always stolen. Thieves steal information from wallets or purses, vehicles, the mail, the Internet, or even the trash.

What Can I Do to Protect Myself from Identity Theft? 

The single most important thing you can do to prevent identity theft is to check your credit report regularly (probably at least twice a year). You can obtain your credit report from one or all of the three major credit-reporting agencies for free once every 12 months and for a small fee thereafter. The sooner you know about a case of fraud in your name, the better your odds of clearly up the situation quickly and with the least amount of damage.

Free Annual Credit Report

Experian: (888) 397-3742

Equifax: (800) 685-1111

Credit monitoring services alert you when there are critical changes to your credit report.

After you’ve checked your credit, consider these other identity protection tips:

  • Do not give out personal financial information on the phone, especially your Social Security number, unless you initiated the call and know with whom you’re speaking.

  • Report lost or stolen checks and credit cards immediately.

  • Review new deliveries of checks and credit cards immediately.

  • Store new and cleared checks in a safe place

  • Do not give your ATM personal identification number (PIN) to anyone.

  • Properly dispose of financial information, including financial solicitations received by mail, by shredding or tearing them up.

  • Study your bills carefully and question any suspicious charges immediately.

What Should I Do If I Believe I’m the Victim of Identity Theft?


  1. Contact any of the three major credit reporting agencies listed above and ask them to place a fraud alert on your credit file.

    Note: Fraud alerts provide notice to potential creditors that the person has been a potential victim of identity theft. The member only needs to notify one of the bureaus, which then notifies the other two credit bureaus. In addition, the member can place a victim statement on their credit profile, requesting creditors to contact the victim at a specific phone number prior to granting new credit. After a victim places a fraud alert with the credit bureau, a free copy of their credit report will be sent to the victim by each credit bureau. The victim should review their credit reports for any signs of unauthorized activity.

  2. Next, cancel any account (credit, checking, etc.) that you know has been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

  3. Contact your local police department and begin the process of filing a police report.

  4. Document all your correspondence with credit agencies, banks, and police departments. The better records you keep, the easier the process will be.

  5. File a compliant with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC tracks consumer complaints of identity fraud and maintains a database of investigations (contact information below).

Where Can I Go For More Information?

The Federal Trade Commission provides extensive information about identity theft, call (877) ID-THEFT or go to .

Or visit the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at .

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