Identity Theft

Everyone should safeguard all their account numbers so they won’t be a victim of identity theft. Identity theft happens when someone pretends to be you by using your personal information when applying for loans, credit cards, or leases. In some cases people may impersonate you when receiving traffic violations or other legal contact.

The thief takes advantage of your good history or credit record, leaving behind bad credit or misdeeds in your name. Losses to consumer and institutions due to identity theft totaled $845 million in 1997, according to the U.S. Secret Service.

Obtaining Your Personal Information

  • Stealing your purse or wallet
  • Pilfering information such as bank statements and pre-approved credit card applications from your mailbox.
  • Posing as your employer, loan officer or landlord to get your credit reports.
  • Going through trash for credit card carbons or loan applications.
  • Watching transactions at automated teller machines to capture your PIN.
  • By using a "phishing" scam on the internet.

How to Minimize the Risk

  • Never carry your Social Security Number in your wallet or diary or printed on checks.
  • Guard your Social Security Number closely, giving it out only to official authorities or businesses you trust. Some firms will accept another identifier if you ask.
  • Be careful how you dispose of documents. Ideally, shred them.
  • Exercise your right to stop your credit header being sold, which will also stop pre-approved offers of credit. Call the credit bureaus’ special toll free line 888-567-8688.
  • Don’t post personal information on the internet-for example, on genealogical or college reunion sites.
  • Check your credit report at least once a year.
Should you become a victim, see below for where to go for help. Here are some other tips:
  • Obtain a copy of the fraudulent contract or application. This is the key document that proves the person who signed it isn’t you. Finding the company that issued it and the right person to talk to isn’t always easy.
  • Try to get past the gatekeepers to someone who is in charge.
  • Contact the credit bureaus that hold your credit report. Ask them to log the theft and remove the bad accounts from your report, giving as much proof as possible. You may meet difficulties, but by law, the bureau must correct any wrong information.
  • Have a "fraud alert" put on your credit report. This should alert credit grantors to check a new application.
  • Keep meticulous dated records of your attempts to clean the record - letters, phone calls, and what were said.
  • Never agree to pay any portion of the debt just to get the debt collectors off your back. The balance will stay on your record.
  • Remember you are not a victim; do not let these people intimidate you. Contact the police to fight back.

Where to Go for Help

To report identity theft and get help on how to restore your credit contact Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, which is located at:
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20580
Phone: 877-382-4357

Additional Agencies / Resources / Contact Numbers

Government Agencies


To report the fraudulent use of your checks
  • Check Rite Phone: 800-766-2748
  • Equifax-Telecredit Phone: 800-437-5120
  • NPC Phone: 800-526-5380
  • Tele-Check Phone: 800 366-2425
  • Chex Systems Phone: 800-328-5121
For consumer-oriented information contact the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, which is located at:
1717 Kettner Avenue
Suite 105
San Diego, CA 92101

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