The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, social security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
Cyber criminals steal your information in a number of ways:
Through the use of malware
Cyber criminals seek to infect as many computers as possible with their malware which allows them to download the contents of your computer to a remote location.
Cyber criminals often send believable spam or create believable website in hopes that you will respond with your personal information.
Often, the majority of personally identifiable information can be obtained by simply going through a person’s trash.
How to determine if you are a victim
The best way to find out is to monitor your accounts and bank statements each month, and check your credit report on a regular basis. If you check your credit report regularly, you may be able to limit the damage caused by identity theft.
If you or someone you know believes they are a victim of ID theft, the FTC recommends the following steps:
1. Place a fraud alert on your credit. Contact one of the three reporting companies listed below. By doing this it can help prevent an identity thief from opening more accounts with your information.
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
2. Close accounts that you believe that been tampered or fraudulently opened.
3. File a complaint with the FTC here.
4. File a police report with local police or where the identity theft occurred.
Have you or someone you know experienced ID theft? Share your story in the comments section.