smartconsumer: Guarding Against Identity Theft - Know

Guarding Against Identity Theft

{What to Know} {What to Do}


Video from the Federal Trade Commission                             Caption page

Identity theft is a serious crime. Identity theft happens when someone uses information about you without your permission. They could use your:

  • name and address

  • credit card or bank account numbers

  • Social Security number

  • medical insurance account numbers


Why should I care if someone steals my identity?

You will be responsible for what the thief does while using your personal information. You might have to pay for what the thief buys. This is true even if you do not know about the bills. 


How can that happen?

  • A thief might get a credit card using your name.

  • He changes the address.

  • The bills go to him, but he never pays them.

  • That means the credit card company thinks you are not paying the bills.

  • That will hurt your credit.

This is the kind of trouble identity theft can cause for you.

Video from the Federal Trade Commission                             Caption page

What can a thief do with my personal information?

An identity thief can use your name and information to:

  • buy things with your credit cards

  • get new credit cards

  • open a phone, electricity, or gas account

  • steal your tax refund

  • get medical care

  • pretend to be you if they are arrested


How can a thief steal my identity?

A thief can get your personal information in person or online. Here are some ways thieves might steal someone's identity. A thief might:

  • steal your mail or garbage to get your account numbers or your Social Security number

  • trick you into sending personal information in an email

  • steal your account numbers from a business or medical office

  • steal your wallet or purse to get your personal information


How will I know if someone steals my identity?

Sometimes, you can tell if someone steals your identity.

  • Read your bills. Do you see charges for things you did not buy?

  • Watch your bank account statement. Are there withdrawals you did not make? Are there changes you do not expect?

  • Check your mail. Did you stop getting a bill?  Or did you start getting a new bill you do not know about?

  • Get your credit report. Are there accounts or other information you do not recognize?

  • Look at medical statements. Are there charges and visits that you do not recognize?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, someone might have stolen your identity. If you think someone stole your identity, learn more about recovering from identity theft.

Content Last Modified on 2/27/2013 1:26:55 PM