The Facts on Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your bank account number, Social Security number, credit card, or other personal information for his or her own ends. Months can go by before the theft has been discovered. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has listed the following ways that imposters can get your personal information and take over your identity:

  • They steal your wallet and purse containing your identification and credit and bank cards.
  • They steal your mail, including your bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, telephone calling cards, and tax information.
  • They complete a change of address form to divert your mail to another location.
  • They rummage through your trash, or the trash of businesses, for personal data in a practice known as “dumpster diving.”
  • They fraudulently obtain your credit card report by posing as a landlord, employer, or someone else who may have a legitimate need for, and a legal right to the information.
  • They obtain your business or personnel records at work.
  • They find personal information in your home.
  • They use personal information you share on the Internet.
  • They buy your personal information from inside sources. For example, an identity thief may pay a store employee for information about you that appears on an application for goods, services, or credit.

How Your Stolen Identity Can Be Used

The crooks call your credit card user and, pretending to be you, ask to change the mailing address on your credit card account. The imposter then runs up charges on your account. Because your bills are being sent to the new address, it may take some time before you realize that there is a problem. Thieves can also open a new credit card account using your name, date of birth, and your Social Security number. When they use the credit card and don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report.

Other scenarios include:

  • Establishing a phone or wireless service in your name;
  • Opening a bank account in your name and writing bad checks on it;
  • Filing for bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they’ve incurred under your name or to avoid eviction;
  • Draining your bank account;
  • Buying cars by taking out auto loans in your name.

If You Are A Phishing Victim:

  • If your credit card is stolen, close the account immediately.
  • Notify the three main credit bureaus.
  • Put passwords (not your mother’s maiden name) on any new accounts.
  • File a report with the police in the community where the theft occurred.
  • Keep a copy of the report in case it is needed later.
  • If your Social Security number is being used fraudulently, notify the Social Security Administration.