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How to Protect Your Identity

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How to Protect Your Identity

hand stealing id card from computer photo

Identity theft is a widespread problem in today's electronic world. It occurs when someone uses your personal information for illegal gain.

With key pieces of personal information, such as your name, Social Security number, or account numbers, thieves can commit a wide range of crimes - from gaining access to your bank or credit card account, to using your credentials on fraudulent credit, employment, immigration, and other applications. Correcting the damage is often costly and time consuming.

Information, entertainment, financial services, shopping, and connecting with friends are available at the click of a button. These everyday transactions make it easier than ever for villains to harvest your personal information.

As with any crime, you cannot completely protect yourself from becoming an identity theft victim, but you can minimize your risk. So what can you do to avoid fraud and identity scams?

Fraud and Identity Theft Basics

Victims of Identity Theft

If you are a victim of identity theft you should follow these situational tips asap!

Compromised Info

This is when someone steals your information

  • Bank account number, debit card or credit card numbers or access codes - Notify the bank(s) and close the account(s)
  • Social Security number or card - Notify one of the three major credit reporting agencies and place a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert can help prevent new credit accounts from being opened with your information. The agency contacted is required to notify the other agencies
  • File a police report if a physical theft has occurred. If you are a victim of a pretense scam, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at

Fraudulent Transactions

This is when someone makes purchases via your account without permission.

  • Alert your bank - The law protects you from fraudulent transactions, but time limits apply based on the type of transaction. 
  • Report in writing - Most banks require the completion of a dispute form, but if not, follow up with a letter. Keep a copy of all correspondence. 
  • Close your account - Close your account and open a new one to prevent additional fraudulent transactions. 

Fraudulent Accounts

This is when someone opens an account in your name without your permission.

  • File a police report - A police report may be required to substantiate your fraud claim, so file a police report and retain a copy.
  • Contact the bank or creditor - The process for handling a fraud claim will vary by bank. Make sure you understand exactly what is expected from you, and what you can expect from the bank.
  • Document your claim in writing - If the bank does not provide you with a fraud form, send a written letter via certified mail.
  • Notify credit-reporting agencies - If fraudulent accounts appear on your credit report, file a dispute with each credit-reporting agency. Follow up in writing and include copies of your documentation, such as a police report, or credit report with fraudulent accounts circled.
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit report - Notify the credit-reporting agencies and place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit report. These services can help prevent the opening of new credit accounts with your information. A fraud alert is a cautionary flag to creditors, while a security freeze is a more drastic measure that prevents access to your report. Explore the differences and decide which method is right for you by contacting the fraud department at the credit-reporting agencies.
  • Monitor your credit report - Periodically check your credit report to make sure all fraudulent activity is removed, and that additional fraudulent activity has not occurred.
  • Keep your documentation - At the conclusion of the investigation, ask the creditor for a document that states you are not responsible for the debt. Keep all notes and correspondence.

How to Protect Yourself

Be Aware of Scams

Review the latest scams at

Guard Your Personal Info

  1. Create strong passwords.  Your password should use a variety of letters, numbers, and at least 12 characters.  It should be random and shouldn’t include pet names or birthdates. Password managers are a great way to ensure you have long, unique, and strong passwords. Password managers will require you to only remember one master password.
  2. Never provide personal information, such as your Social Security number, passwords, bank account or card numbers in response to a text, phone call or email, regardless of how official it may seem. Instead, call the company that the caller purportedly represents at a number you look up.
  3. Think before you post on social media.  Do not post identifying information such as driver’s licenses, credit cards, or any account numbers.
  4. Shred documents, review bank statements regularly, and carry only necessary items in your wallet. 

Protect Your Computer

  • Update security software regularly to protect your computer from viruses or malware. 
  • Use secured websites. Secured websites will be identified with the lock symbol and prefix https
  • Use privacy settings on social media to ensure you know and trust your followers. 
  • Install and use extenisons for your web browser that help keep you safe and reduce the amount of tracking from websites.

Review Your Credit Report

  • Download a free credit report annually at
  • Monitor your credit report by staggering credit reports from all three credit bureaus. Report any discrepancies on your credit.

Helpful Resources

Equifax Credit Reporting Agency 

Experian Credit Reporting Agency 

Trans Union Credit Reporting Agency 

Federal Trade Commission
877.IDTHEFT (438.4338)

FDIC Consumer Protection