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What is identity theft and how can you protect yourself?

Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information—such as Social Security number, driver’s license, date of birth, account numbers, etc.—and uses that information to fraudulently make purchases, open accounts, apply for credit, pay bills, make insurance claims or more, in your name. Not only can it cause significant damage to your credit, it can cost a great deal of time and money to resolve.

Fraudsters can use a variety of methods to obtain your personal information. These methods include: dumpster diving, mail theft, telemarketing scams, e-mail phishing, personal theft, or shoulder surfing.

How do I know if I’ve been a victim of identity theft?

Stolen information can be used in a variety of ways. Some possible signs that your identity has been stolen include:

  • Unfamiliar accounts on your credit report
  • Unauthorized charges on your credit card or bank accounts
  • Getting calls from debt collectors about debts that aren’t yours
  • Receiving bills for services you didn’t use
  • No longer receiving bills, statements, or other mail you should be receiving (sometimes, fraudsters change the address on your accounts to direct mail to their address)
  • Being rejected for medical insurance claims because you’ve reached your plan limit
  • Having credit or debit card transactions declined, or checks refused or returned, when you know you should have sufficient funds in your account

Ways you can protect yourself against identity theft

There are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. Exercising caution with regards to your personal information will greatly reduce your risk. Our Best Practices section provides many key tips to safeguard yourself from identity theft.

What to do if you’ve been a victim of identity theft

If your identity has been stolen, you’ll want to act immediately to protect yourself and your credit. Our Victim Resources section provides contact information and steps you can take if your identity has been stolen.

PLEASE NOTE: All information on our security resources pages is provided as a convenience to customers and non-customers alike. Our Online Privacy & Terms apply to all information posted. In case you are the victim of a financial or other crime involving any of the security issues discussed here, contact law enforcement and other pertinent authorities and organizations IMMEDIATELY. Never send out your personal information by unencrypted email.

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