Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal or financial information without your permission. It can damage your credit status and cost you time and money.
Warning signs of identity theft
You may not know that you experienced ID theft immediately. Beware of:
- Bills for items you did not buy
- Debt collection calls for accounts you did not open
- Information on your credit report for accounts you did not open
- Denials of loan applications
- Mail stops coming to, or is missing from, your mailbox
How to report identity theft
To report identity theft, contact:
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at IdentityTheft.gov or call 1-877-438-4338
- The three major credit reporting agencies. Ask them to place fraud alerts and a credit freeze on your accounts.
- The fraud department at your credit card issuers, bank, and other places where you have accounts
How identity theft happens
There are several ways that scammers can steal your identity, including in person, online, through social media, and by phone. Scammers may:
- Steal your wallet or purse to get ID, credit, or bank cards
- Go through your trash to retrieve bank statements or tax documents
- Install skimmers at ATM machines, cash registers, and fuel pumps to digitally steal information from your bank card
- Get personal information from your phone when you use public Wi-Fi
- Use “phishing” to get information from you through fraudulent email, texts, or phone calls
- Look through your social media accounts to find identifying information in posts or photos. Or they may ask you for personal information in online quizzes and surveys.
How to protect yourself from identity theft
- Do not answer phone calls, texts, social media messages, or email from numbers or people you do not know.
- Do not share personal information like your bank account number, Social Security number, or date of birth.
- Collect your mail every day and place a hold on your mail when you will be on vacation or away from your home.
- Review credit card and bank account statements. Watch for and report unauthorized or suspicious transactions.
- Understand how ATM skimming works and how to protect yourself
- Learn when it is safe to use a public Wi-Fi network
- Store personal information, including your Social Security card, in a safe place. Do not carry it in your wallet.
LAST UPDATED: December 6, 2023