Identity Theft

kissclipart-identity-theftIdentity Theft

There are several common types of identity theft that can affect you:

  • Tax ID theft - Someone uses your Social Security number to falsely file tax returns with the IRS or your state
  • Medical ID theft - Someone steals your Medicare ID or health insurance member number. Thieves use this information to get medical services or send fake bills to your health insurer.
  • Social ID theft - Someone uses your name and photos to create a fake account on social media

Take steps to avoid being a victim of identity theft. Secure your internet connections, use security features, and review bills. Read more about how you can prevent identity theft.

Prevent Identity Theft

Keep these tips in mind to protect yourself from identity theft:

  • Secure your Social Security number (SSN). Dont carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Only give out your SSN when necessary.
  • Don't share personal information (birth date, Social Security number, or bank account number) because someone asks for it.
  • Collect mail every day. Place a hold on your mail when you are away from home for several days.
  • Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
  • Use the security features on your mobile phone.
  • Update sharing and firewall settings when you're on a public wifi network. Use a virtual private network (VPN) if you use public wifi.
  • Review your credit card and bank account statements. Compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
  • Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards. This can prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
  • Store personal information in a safe place.
  • Install firewalls and virus-detection software  on your home computer.
  • Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases
  • Review your credit reports once a year. Be certain that they don't include accounts that you have not opened. You can order it for free from several online sites; just enter "free credit report" into your favorite search engine.
  • Freeze your credit files with Equifax, Experian, Innovis, TransUnion, and the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange for free. Credit freezes prevent someone from applying for and getting approval for a credit account or utility services in your name.

Report Identity Theft

Report identity (ID) theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at IdentityTheft.gov or by phone at 1-877-438-4338.

If you report identity theft online, you will receive an identity theft report and a recovery plan. Create an account on the website to update your recovery plan, track your progress,  and receive pre-filled form letters to send to creditors. If you don't create an account, you won't be able to access the report or letters later. View the FTC's Recovering from Identity Theft page for detailed tips, checklists, and sample letters. 

If you report identity theft by phone, the FTC will collect the details of your situation. But it won't give you an ID theft report or recovery plan.  

You may also choose to report identity theft to the Bellaire Police Department. Some banks and credit card companies require a police report to take action.   

Report Specific Types of Identity Theft

You may also report specific types of identity theft to other federal agencies.

Report Identity Theft to Other Organizations

You can also report the theft to other organizations, such as:

  • Credit Reporting Agencies - Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies to place fraud alerts or freezes on your accounts. Also get copies of your credit reports, to be sure that no one has already tried to get unauthorized credit accounts with your personal information. Confirm that the credit reporting agency will alert the other two credit reporting agencies.
  • National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center - Report cases of identity theft that resulted from a stay in a nursing home or long-term care facility. 
  • Financial Institutions - Contact the fraud department at your bank, credit card issuers and any other places where you have accounts.  
  • Retailers and Other Companies - Report the crime to companies where the identity thief opened credit accounts or even applied for jobs.
  • State Consumer Protection Offices or Attorney General - Some states offer resources to help you contact creditors and dispute errors.

You may need to get new personal records or identification cards if you're the victim of ID theft.  Learn how to replace your vital identification documents after identity theft.