Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information, credit cards, checks or driver's license and uses those to obtain credit or merchandise in your name. Identity theft also involves using someone else's identity with intent to commit an unlawful act.
Ways your identity can be stolen
Everyday transactions require you to share personal information such as your name, address and phone numbers, bank and credit card account numbers, and Social Security number. This information can be stolen in many ways:
- Thieves may have access to your information through their regular employment.
- Your purse, wallet or an individual check may be stolen.
- Mail may be stolen including new check orders, bank and credit card statements, and pre-approved credit offers.
- Your trash may be rummaged through for personal information.
- Fraudulent telephone solicitors may contact you directly and obtain personal information.
What you should do if it happens
- Contact your local police department immediately.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338). The Commissioner has established a centralized complaint and consumer education service for victims of identity theft.
- Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Ask that a “fraud alert” be placed on your name and Social Security number so hopefully law enforcement will be contacted if a business checks with the credit bureau.
- Contact the credit departments of any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- Contact the postal service if you think your mail has been stolen.
- Check your criminal history to clear up any arrest or conviction records in your name caused by someone using your name as an alias.
Reducing your risk of identity theft
Before you reveal any personal identifying information, find out how it will be used and whether it will be shared with others. Ask if you can choose to have it kept confidential. You can also:
- Cancel unused credit cards.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card, passport or birth certificate with you except when necessary.
- Shred all credit card receipts, solicitations, cancelled checks and other financial documents before throwing them away.
- Check credit card statements immediately for unauthorized purchases.
- Don’t give out your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, or any account information over the phone unless you are sure the caller is legitimate.
For more ways to reduce your risk of identity theft, see the Dakota County Attorney’s Office Identity Theft brochure or go to the Federal Trade Commission website.