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Identity theft

Learn what identity theft is, its warning signs, and how to protect yourself. Find out how to report identity theft if your information gets stolen.

What is identity theft, and what are its warning signs?

Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal or financial information without your permission. This information can include:

  • Names and addresses
  • Credit card or Social Security numbers
  • Bank account numbers
  • Medical insurance account numbers

You may not know that you experienced ID theft immediately. Beware of these warning signs: 

  • 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:

Use’s list of steps to help you recover.

If you believe you have experienced tax-related identity theft but have not received a notification from the IRS about it, learn about filing Form 14039. Completing the Identity Theft Affidavit will invalidate a fraudulent return filed using your information.

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.

Learn other ways to protect yourself and your credit from ID theft.

And find out how to protect your child’s information from identity theft.

LAST UPDATED: May 3, 2024


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