What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a crime in which an individual uses your personal information, such as your name, Social Security number, driver’s license number, or credit card number, without your permission to buy merchandise or services or to secure credit. A thief also may provide your information to police during an arrest, giving you a mistaken criminal record.


Consumers too often learn about identify theft after their information has been stolen and damage done. Below are examples of how you might learn that your identity has been stolen:

  • You receive a credit card or bill for an account that you didn’t open, or charges appear on your credit card bill for purchases that you didn’t make.
  • Debt collectors contact you about unpaid bills that you did not create.
  • You are denied credit for no apparent reason.
  • You receive a court notice for a criminal or traffic violation that you did not create.
  • You lose or are denied a job, housing, or an educational opportunity based on negative information obtained from a criminal background or credit check.
  • Your driver’s license is suspended or your car insurance is canceled for tickets that you didn’t receive.


By protecting yourself and taking simple actions, you can prevent identity theft. Below are examples of steps that you can take:

  • Order and review your credit report.
  • Check your monthly credit card and bank statements to verify every transaction.
  • Do not give personal information over the phone, through the mail, or via the Internet unless you initiated the contacted or know the person with whom you are dealing.
  • Shred documents that contain your personal information, such as pre-approved credit card offers, medical paperwork, credit card receipts, bank statements, and loan consolidation offers.
  • Empty your wallet of rarely used credit cards and identification cards.
  • Close all unused credit card or bank accounts.


If your identity is stolen, do not delay in correction your records and contacting all companies that opened fraudulent accounts. Below are some steps that you can take:

  • Place a free fraud alert on your credit reports with each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax 800-525-6285, Experian 888-397-3742, TransUnion 800-680-7289).
  • File a police report and obtain a copy of the report. This is necessary to extend the fraud alert and may be required by other agencies during the recovery process.
  • Contact your creditors and banks to notify them that your identity has been stolen.
  • Close any accounts that have been tampered with or have been fraudulently opened.
  • Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission.

For More Information

For more prevention tips and additional information, contact the Federal Trade Commission.
1-877-IDTHEFT or www.ftc.gov