is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name, address, Social
Security number (SSN), bank or credit card account number, or
other identifying information without your knowledge to commit
fraud or other crimes.
can someone steal my identity?
Identity thieves may use a variety of low- and high-tech methods
to gain access to your personally identifying information. For
are the consequences of identity theft?
- They get
information from businesses or institutions by stealing records
from their employer, bribing an employee who has access to the
records, conning information out of employees, or hacking into
the organization's computers.
- They rummage
through your trash, the trash of businesses, or dumps in a practice
known as "dumpster diving."
- They obtain
credit reports by abusing their employer's authorized access
to credit reports or by posing as a landlord, employer or someone
else who may have a legitimate need for and a legal right to
- They steal
credit and debit card account numbers as your card is processed
by using a special information storage device in a practice
known as "skimming."
- They steal
wallets and purses containing identification and credit and
- They steal
mail, including bank and credit card statements, pre-approved
credit offers, new checks, or tax information.
- They complete
a "change of address form" to divert mail to another
- They steal
personal information from your home.
- They scam
information from you by posing as a legitimate business person
or government official.
Once identity thieves have your personal information, they may:
is "pretexting" and how does it relate to identity theft?
- Go on spending
sprees using your credit and debit card account numbers to buy
"big-ticket" items like computers that they can easily
- Open a
new credit card account, using your name, date of birth and
SSN. When they don't pay the bills, the delinquent account is
reported on your credit report.
the mailing address on your credit card account. The imposter
then runs up charges on the account. Because the bills are being
sent to the new address, it may take some time before you realize
there's a problem.
- Take out
auto loans in your name.
phone or wireless service in your name.
checks or debit cards, and drain your bank account.
- Open a
bank account in your name and write bad checks on that account.
- File for
bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they've incurred,
or to avoid eviction.
- Give your
name to the police during an arrest. If they are released and
don't show up for their court date, an arrest warrant could
be issued in your name.
Pretexting is the practice of getting your personal information
under false pretenses. Pretexters sell your information to people
who may use it to get credit in your name, steal your assets, or
to investigate or sue you. Pretexting is against the law.
use a variety of tactics to get your personal information. For
example, a pretexter may call, claim he's from a survey firm,
and ask you a few questions. When the pretexter has the information
he wants, he uses it to call your financial institution. He pretends
to be you or someone with authorized access to your account. He
might claim that he's forgotten his checkbook and needs information
about his account. In this way, the pretexter may be able to obtain
personal information about you such as your SSN, bank and credit
card account numbers, information in your credit report, and the
existence and size of your savings and investment portfolios.
Keep in mind
that some information about you may be a matter of public record,
such as whether you own a home, pay your real estate taxes, or
have ever filed for bankruptcy. It is not pretexting for another
person to collect this kind of information.
By law, it's
illegal for anyone to:
- use false,
fictitious or fraudulent statements or documents to get customer
information from a financial institution or directly from a
customer of a financial institution
- use forged,
counterfeit, lost, or stolen documents to get customer information
from a financial institution or directly from a customer of
a financial institution
- ask another
person to get someone else's customer information using false,
fictitious or fraudulent statements or using false, fictitious
or fraudulent documents or forged, counterfeit, lost, or stolen
How long can identity theft problems go on?
to predict how long the effects of identity theft may linger.
That's because it depends on many factors including the type of
theft, whether the thief sold or passed your information on to
other thieves, whether the thief is caught, and problems related
to correcting your credit report.
identity theft should monitor their credit reports and other financial
records for several months after they discover the crime. Credit
reports should be checked once every three months in the first
year of the theft, and once a year thereafter. Keep alert for
other signs of identity theft. See How can I tell if I'm a victim
of identity theft?
not delay in correcting their records and contacting all companies
that opened fraudulent accounts. The longer the inaccurate information
goes uncorrected, the longer it will take to resolve the problem.
can I tell if I'm a victim of identity theft?
balances of your financial accounts. Look for unexplained charges
of identity theft include:
to receive bills or other mail, which may signal an address
change by the identity thief
credit cards for which you did not apply
- being denied
credit for no apparent reason
calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise
or services you did not buy
any of these indications could be a result of a simple error,
you should not assume that there’s been a mistake and
do nothing. Always follow up with the business or institution
to find out
Are there any other steps I can take to make sure I'm
not an identity theft victim?
If an identity
thief is opening new credit accounts in your name, these accounts
are likely to show up on your credit report. You can find out
by ordering a copy of your credit report from any of three major
credit bureaus. Check your report carefully to make sure it is
accurate. See What should I look for on a credit report to indicate
identity theft? If you do find any inaccurate information, you
should check your reports from the other two credit bureaus. Note:
If your personal information has been lost or stolen, you should
check all of your reports more frequently for the first year.