Identity Theft Protection
Resources Identity Theft Protection

Identity Theft

Identity Theft is a serious crime. People whose sensitive personal information has been stolen can spend substantial time and money cleaning up the mess criminals have made of their good name and credit record. The consequences could be lost job opportunities or damaged credit. Some victims have even been arrested for crimes they didn't commit.

How do thieves obtain personal information?

Skilled identity thieves use a variety of ways to gain access to your personal information. For example, they may:

  • Steal your wallet or purse.
  • Steal your mail.
  • Rummage through your trash or public trash sites
  • Collect your information through email phishing or phone scams, often pretending they are from a legitimate company, and/or claiming you have a problem on your account.

Has someone stolen your personal information?

If you fear someone has stolen your personal information, following are some indications that identity theft may have occurred:

  • Failing to receive bills or other mail on time.
  • Receiving credit cards for which you did not apply.
  • Denial of credit for no apparent reason.
  • Receiving calls from debt collectors or companies about products or services you did not purchase.

Precautions you should take:

  • Carefully monitor the balances and statements of all your financial accounts.
  • Look for unexplained charges or withdrawals.
  • Place complex passwords on all of your financial accounts (include upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters).
  • Limit the number of credit cards or other identifying information that you carry daily.
  • Shred any identifying information before discarding it.
  • Update the virus protection software on your PC regularly; do not open files from strangers or companies you do not recognize.
  • Use a "wipe" utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive before disposing of a computer.

ID Theft Victims Immediate Steps

If you are the victim of identity theft, take the following four steps as soon as possible, and keep records of your conversations and copies of all correspondence.

1. Place a "fraud alert" on your credit reports, and add a "victims statement" to your file requesting that creditors contact you before opening new accounts in your name.

2. Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Call and speak to someone in the security or fraud department. Follow up in writing sent by certified mail, return receipt requested.

3. File a "miscellaneous incidents" report at a police station where the identity theft occurred, and get a copy of the police report. It can help you deal with creditors who need proof of the crime.

4. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You can file a complaint online at; call 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); or write Identity Theft Clearinghouse, FTC, 600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20580.

Reporting Fraud to the Credit Bureaus

Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity theft from opening accounts in your name. Contact one of the credit bureaus below to place a fraud alert on your credit report. The company you call is required to forward the information to the other two, which will also place alerts on your account.

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian: 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289


Equifax: 1-800-685-1111

PO Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374

Experian: 1-800-682-7654

PO Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800
PO Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022
The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles all individuals living in the United States to a free credit report, at their request, once every 12 months from each of the nationwide credit bureaus. To order your free credit report from one or all of the national credit bureaus, visit, call toll-free 1-877-322-8228, or visit to print and complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348.
Note: Do not contact the three nationwide credit bureaus directly; they provide free annual credit reports only through the Annual Credit Report Request Service.