How it happens and how to avoid it
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information to open new accounts, to obtain access to your existing accounts or open credit lines in your name. Thieves may gain access to your personal information in a number of ways.
- Personal information stolen from your purse or wallet
- Home break-in
- Automobile theft
- Dumpster diving (stealing trash with personal information from a residential or business trash receptacle)
- Personal information on your checks
- Medical or school records that are accessed by an untrustworthy employee
- Information you provide to a fraudulent telemarketer
- Information you supply over the Internet
You can avoid becoming a victim of identity theft by considering the following:
Do not print unnecessary information on your personal checks (e.g. phone number, driver's license number). Never print your Social Security number on your checks.
Maintain an unlisted home phone number. This listing is just one more source of information for someone who has a desire to defraud you. You may also consider listing just your name and telephone number without an address.
Review your credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies at least once a year.
Opt out of pre-approved credit card offers by calling 888-5-OPTOUT. This is effective for two years. For permanent opt-out status, put your request in writing and send it to the three credit reporting agencies listed on this page.
The websites below provide more information about how to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, and what to do if you are a victim.
Federal Trade Commission
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Better Business Bureau