Identity theft is when someone uses your personal identity information (your name, Social Security number, or any other identifying information) to obtain a credit card, loan or any other type of credit or service in your name.
Why Should You Care About Identity Theft?
- Your credit could be ruined
- You could be arrested for a crime you didn't commit
- You could be denied employment
- You could be denied a place to live
- Your wages could be garnished
- You driver's license could be revoked
How Does An Identity Thief Get Your Personal Information?
- Stealing your wallet or purse
- Finding personal information in your home
- Obtaining personal information from your work
- Randomly using your Social Security number
- Listening to your telephone conversations
- Shoulder surfing
- Dumpster diving
- Stealing your mail
- Fraudulently obtaining your credit report
- Calling or sending mail or e-mail with bogus promises of prizes
How Does An Identity Theft Use Your Personal Information?
- Obtain new credit cards in your name
- Forge checks and debit cards and drain your accounts
- Open new bank accounts in your name
- Obtain loans or mortages in your name
- Receive utilities in you rname
- File bankruptcy in your name
- Commit crimes in your name
How Can You Protect Yourself From Identity Theft?
- Do not provide personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the internet unless:
- You placed the call or sent the letter or e-mail, and
- You know the company is reputable
- If you receive a call claming you won a prize:
- Do not provide or confirm any personal information
- Do not send money
- Do not provide any credit card information
- Do not post personal information on the internet
- Do not carry your Social Security card with you
- Guard your wallet or purse:
- Do not hang your purse over the back of a chair
- Do not carry more credit cards then you need
- Do not carry your passport or visa
- Do not carry your passwords or your PINs
- Keep your mail private:
- Get a locking mailbox or a post office box for delivery of incoming mail
- Do not leave mail lying around your home
- Do not allow mail to pile up if you are away
- Use a U.S. mailbox or the U.S. Post Office for outgoing mail
- Have new checks delivered to your bank or to your post office box, not your home
- Be careful with personal information at home and when traveling:
- Use a telephone where your conversations cannot be overheard
- Make sure no one is looking over your shoulder at ATMs or pay phones
- Do not use a cell phone to provide personal information
- Review your credit card and bank statements each month and report fraudulent activity immediately
How Can You Protect Your Credit Cards?
- Shield your credit cards from view
- Total your receipts before signing
- Do not leave empty spaces on your receipts where additional amounts can be added
- Never sign blank receipts
- Keep copies of your receipts and compare them with your monthly statements
Action Steps For "Identity Theft Victims"
- Contact all creditors, by phone and in writing, to inform them of th eproblem. Ask for their fraud or security department.
- Call the Police Department, the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Office, the IRS and the Social Security Administration.
- Call each of the three Credit Bureaus' fraud units to report identity theft. Ask to have a "Fraud Alert/Victim Impact" statement placed in your credit file asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts.
- Alet your banks to flag your accounts and to contact you to confirm any unusual activity.
- Request a change of your PIN and a new password.
- Keep a log of all your contacts and make copies of all documents. You may also wish to contact a privacy or consumer advocacy group regarding illegal activity.
- Contact PennDot to see if another license was issued in your name and/or report stolen license. If a new license has been issued, fill out a DMV's complaint form to begin a fraud investigation process.
- Report fraudulent use of your checks to the check verification services that your local merchants use.
- All requests by mail should be "Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested" whenever possible.
Identity Theft Resources
Government Agencies & Services
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service
Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline
Major Check Verification Companies
National Process Co.
Credit Bureaus for Reporting Fraud
P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374-0250
P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634
Identity Theft Prevention and Survival
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse