What is identity theft?

  • Identity theft is a crime in which the imposter obtains key pieces of information such as Social Security and driver's license numbers to obtain credit, merchandise and services in the name of the victim.

  • The victim is left with a ruined credit history and the time-consuming and complicated task of regaining financial health.

  • It is a dual crime, committed against an individual whose name and good credit history was ruined and against businesses who lost cash and merchandise.

Basic Prevention Tips

  • Don't send bills or anything with personal information from your personal mailbox.

  • Don't leave any anything with your personal information out in the open (ex: student loan documents, job applications, credit applications)

  • Don't ever give your personal information to a caller.

  • Watch out for your bank account information as well.

  • Don't carry your social security card in your purse.

  • If you think someone has stolen your identity, click here for an affidavit you can print out and give to your creditors.

Tips from the Identity Theft Resource Center

  • Carefully destroy papers you don't need, especially those with sensitive or identifying information. Buy and use a good, cross-cut paper shredder.

  • Guard your Social Security Number. Don't carry your social security card with you. That also includes any cards or badges that may include this number on it. Resist giving it out unless necessary. Don't put SSN on checks.

  • Check all three of your credit reports once a year. This is one of the best ways to find out if someone is using your information without your knowledge. The law provides for one free credit report per year for every American. Additional reports, in most cases, will cost about $8 for each report unless you are a victim of financial crime or turned down for a job or credit due to your credit report.
    TransUnion: 800-888-4213 (fraud division: 800-680-7289)
    Experian: 888-EXPERIAN (fraud division: 888-397-3742)
    Equifax: 800-685-1111 (fraud division: 800-525-6285)
  • Block your name from marketing lists: 888-5OPTOUT. This will cut down on the number of pre-approved credit card offers you receive.

  • Guard your personal information. Carry as little as possible in your wallet. Get credit cards with your picture on them. Be alert to shoulder surfers listening for information.

  • Cancel any credit cards you no longer use. That means contacting the company, not just cutting up the card. Keep confidential information in a locked area.

  • Be suspicious of telephone solicitors. Never give out information unless you have initiated the call. You should never need to give a social security number to a sales clerk.

  • Watch what happens to your credit card when you give it to a clerk. The instances of double skimming are on the rise. Double skimming occurs when the clerk not only charges you for your purchase but also runs your card through a computer scanner. Later this information is downloaded on a counterfeit card and used by imposters.

  • Demand that the businesses you frequent take good care of your information and find out how they protect you from ID theft.

News 12 Investigations

May 12, 2006: Special Assignment: Identity Theft

May 12, 2006: Special Assignment: Identity Theft, Part 2

Aug. 28, 2006: On Your Side: Shred Day

Feb. 8, 2007: On Your Side: ID Theft

Feb. 12, 2007: On Your Side: Call For Action

Feb. 23, 2007: On Your Side: Mortgage Fraud

Feb. 27, 2007: On Your Side: Sneaky Scams

Mar. 16, 2007: On Your Side: Internet Security

Mar. 27, 2007: On Your Side: Free Credit Report

Apr. 27, 2007: Family Fraud Alert: Phishing Scams

Apr. 27, 2007: Shoplifter's crimes go on ID theft victim's record

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