Avoiding Identity Theft
Identity theft can make it hard for you to get credit, a job, a place to live, or utilities. But you can reduce your risk of being hurt by identity theft.
How can I protect my identity?
Protect your personal information. That helps you protect your identity. Here are some things you can do:
- At home
- Keep your financial records, Social Security and Medicare cards in a safe place
- shred papers that have your personal or medical information
- take mail out of your mailbox as soon as you can
- As you do business
- only give your Social Security number if you must. Ask if you can use another kind of identification
- do not give your personal information to someone who calls you or emails you
- On the computer
- use passwords that are not easy to guess. Use numbers and symbols when you can
- do not respond to emails or other messages that ask for personal information
- do not put personal information on a computer in a public place, like the library
How will I know if someone steals my identity?
Read your bills and account statements. Watch for:
- things you did not buy
- withdrawals you did not make
- a change of your address that you did not expect
- bills that stop coming
Look at medical statements. You might see charges you do not recognize. That might mean someone stole your identity.
Get your credit report. You get one free credit report every year from each credit reporting company. To order:
- Call Annual Credit Report at 1-877-322-8228.
- You have to give your address, Social Security number, and birthdate.
- Choose to only show the last four numbers of your Social Security. It is safer than showing the full number on your report.
- Choose which credit reporting company you want a report (You get one report free from each company every year.)
The company mails your report to you. It should arrive two to three weeks after you call.
Read your credit report carefully. Look for mistakes or accounts you do not recognize. This could mean someone stole your identity.
September 2012 / Federal Trade Commission / consumer.gov