Prevent and detect identity theft

Identity theft, the fastest growing crime in America, is when someone uses another person's personally identifying information to commit fraud. This can include someone borrowing money in someone else's name, leaving victims of identity theft with debt and credit problems.

The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year*. Avoid becoming a statistic!

Keep your information safe!

  • Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
  • Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary (you can always ask to use another identifier).
  • Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
  • Never click on links sent in unsolicited e-mail messages. Instead, type in a web address you know.
  • Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer--and keep them up-to-date. Visit OnGuardOnline.gov for more information.
  • Don't use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother's maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
  • Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your house.

Regularly monitor your financial information. Review your various financial accounts and statements. Also, request a free copy of your credit report every year and review it. Be alert to things that require immediate attention:

  • Purchases you did not make
  • Bills that do not arrive as expected
  • Unexpected credit cards or account statements
  • Denials of credit for no apparent reason
  • Calls or letters about purchases you did not make

Act quickly when you suspect identity theft. Review the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) victim recovery guide. Understand identity theft in relation to student loans. A federal student loan may be cancelled if it was falsely certified as a result of a crime of identity theft. See the loan cancellation, forgiveness, and discharge chart for more information.

* www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/about-identity-theft.html