Identity theft is a serious crime. It can disrupt your finances, credit history, and reputation, and take time, money, and patience to resolve. Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission.
How to protect your information:
- Read your credit reports. You have a right to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Order all three reports at once, or order one report every four months. To order, go to annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
- Read your bank, credit card, and account statements, and the explanation of medical benefits from your health plan. If a statement has mistakes or doesn’t come on time, contact the business.
- Shred all documents that show personal, financial, and medical information before you throw them away.
- Don’t respond to email, text, and phone messages that ask for personal information. Legitimate companies don’t ask for information this way. Delete the messages.
- Create passwords that mix letters, numbers, and special characters. Don’t use the same password for more than one account.
- If you shop or bank online, use websites that protect your financial information with encryption. An encrypted site has “https” at the beginning of the web address; “s” is for secure.
- If you use a public wireless network, don’t send information to any website that isn’t fully encrypted.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall on your computer.
- Set your computer’s operating system, web browser, and security system to update automatically.
Signs that you may have become a victim of Identity Theft:
- You're denied credit for no apparent reason.
- When applying for a loan, you're offered a high interest rate that is normally assigned only to people with bad credit.
- You're denied employment because of bad credit or record of a crime you didn't commit.
- You receive credit cards you didn't apply for.
- You get calls or letters from debt collectors regarding merchandise you didn't buy.
- You stop receiving bills you're expecting.
If you believe you may have become a victim of identity theft, contact your financial institution immediately.
For more information regarding Identity Theft, contact Federal Trade Commission ftc.gov/idtheft , or call 1-877-438-4338