What is Identity Fraud?

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge to commit fraud or theft. Someone can steal your identity by using your personal information for his or her own advantage. Many new laws are being put in place to protect consumers, such as the recent FACT Act that states only the last five digits of a credit/debit card can be printed on a receipt.

There are three types of Identity Fraud:

  • Financial - a thief opens lines of credit in a victim's name.
  • Criminal - a thief uses the victim's name in a traffic violation or crime.
  • Identity Cloning - a thief creates a whole new identity using the victim's information.

How Identity Theft Happens

Identity theft can happen in a number of ways:

  • Stealing pre-approved credit card applications from mailboxes or dumpsters.
  • Raiding trash dumpsters for discarded receipt and files.
  • Completing change of address forms so that your bills will be sent to a different address.
  • Obtaining credit reports by posing as a landlord or employer.
  • Using personal information found in your home.
  • Obtaining information on the Internet.
  • Posing as a legitimate company through the mail or over the phone and asking for your information.
  • Accessing personnel and payroll information.
  • Posing as repairmen, plumbers, cable installers, etc. to gain access to your home.
  • Taking mail and billing/account information from your mailbox.

How to Minimize Your Risk

By following these steps you can minimize your risk of becoming a victim of identity fraud:

  1. Find out how personal information will be used before revealing it.
  2. Pay attention to billing cycles; if you don't receive a statement, call your creditor.
  3. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at the post office.
  4. Use passwords on your accounts. Avoid using your mother's maiden name, your birthdate, your social security numbers or any series of numbers that would be easy for someone to guess.
  5. Photocopy the contents of your wallet, keep the copy in a safe place and carry as little identifying data as possible.
  6. Do not give your personal information over the telephone, Internet, or by mail unless you have initiated the contact or know with whom you are dealing.
  7. Keep personal information in a safe place.
  8. Reduce the number of credit cards you use.
  9. The next time you order checks, have only your first initial and last name printed on them. A thief does not know how you sign your name but your bank does.
  10. Never write your social security number on documents such as personal checks for indentification purposes.
  11. Order copies of your credit report every year.
  12. Shred copies of your bank and credit card statements.
  13. Be cautious of emails that are unsolicited or from an unknown source.

What to do if You are a Victim of Identity Fraud

If you have been a victim of identity fraud, it is important to take action immediately by doing the following:

  1. Contact the fraud division of one of the three major consumer-credit reporting agencies. Tell them you are a victim or suspect you are a victim of identity fraud. Order copies of your credit report and place a fraud alert on your credit file. Once you have notified one credit bureau, they will contact the other bureaus notifying them of the fraud information they have received. Once a fraud alert is placed, a consumer can provide a contact telephone number on their file. Creditors and/or lenders can contact the consumer directly to verify any purchases, charges or other transactions that are made on accounts that have been reported.
  2. Contact your creditors to close any accounts that have been compromised with or opened fraudulently. Open new accounts with Personal Identification Numbers.
  3. File a report with your local police department. Ask for copies of that report and carry them with you until the issue has been resolved.
  4. Contact the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline at 877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338) to file a complaint.
May 2022