Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It’s a serious crime that can wreak havoc with your finances, credit history, and reputation — and can take time, money, and patience to resolve.
Protecting Your Identity
Keeping your important papers secure, shredding documents with sensitive information before you put them in the trash, and limiting the personal information you carry with you are among the ways you can protect your identity. Find additional tips to reduce your risk of identity theft, including how and when to order your free credit report. Protecting your personal information can help reduce your risk of identity theft. There are four main ways to do it: know who you share information with; store and dispose of your personal information securely, especially your Social Security number; ask questions before deciding to share your personal information; and maintain appropriate security on your computers and other electronic devices.
Immediate Steps if you are the Victim of Identity Theft
If you take action quickly, you can stop an identity thief from doing more damage. Follow these three steps as soon as possible:
Place an Initial Fraud Alert with ALL THREE Credit Reporting Organizations
Order Your Credit Reports
File an Identity Theft Reportwith your Local Police Department
Monitor Your Progress
Resolving identity theft takes phone calls and letters. Create a system to organize your papers and calls, and to track deadlines.
Specific Types of Identity Theft
Tax-Related Identity Theft
Do you know the warning signs that an identity thief is using your Social Security number?
An identity thief may use your Social Security number to get a job or to take your tax refund. Contact the IRS if they send you a notice saying their records show:
you were paid by an employer you don't know
more than one tax return was filed in your name
Child Identity Theft
Here’s how to protect your child's personal information against theft.
A child's Social Security number can be used by identity thieves to apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for a loan or utility service, or rent a place to live. Check for a credit report to see if your child’s information is being misused. Take immediate action if it is. Many school forms require personal and sometimes sensitive information. Find out how your child’s information is collected, used, stored, and thrown away. Your child’s personal information is protected by law. Asking schools and other organizations to safeguard your child’s information can help minimize your child’s risk of identity theft.
Medical Identity Theft
An identity thief can use your personal information to get medical care or services. Find out how to respond.
A thief may use your name or health insurance numbers to see a doctor, get prescription drugs, file claims with your insurance provider, or get other care. If the thief’s health information is mixed with yours, your treatment, insurance and payment records, and credit report may be affected.
If you see signs of medical identity theft, order copies of your records and check for mistakes. You have the right to see your records and have mistakes corrected.