Identity Theft: Everything You Need to Know

Identity theft is a real threat and you need to take steps to protect yourself. To help you out, we’ve rounded up resources and information you need to know about ID theft.

Although we've become increasingly reliant on smartphones, the internet, and credit cards, we have not necessarily become better at protecting our personal data online.

This makes us easy targets for hackers and others who use a variety of tactics to steal our personal information.

Of course, not all hacks are because of our own negligence. Large companies like Target and Marriott have found themselves victims of data breaches too.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take. We put together this comprehensive guide to resources to help you understand the types of information that is stolen and what you can do about it.

How ID Theft occurs

Identity thieves steal information through both the Internet and the physical world. Some tactics they use are:

Skimming

  • An electronic device designed to copy and store information is used to steal the data from magnetic strips found in personal items like:
  • Debit or credit cards
  • Driver's license
  • Passports

Spyware

"Old fashioned" stealing

Phishing

Signs of Identity Theft

The Federal Trade Commission, US Department of Justice, US News, NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, PrivacyMatters and FightIdentityTheft offer multiple resources on this topic.

Specific signs of identity theft include:

Tax related:

Thieves use Social Security numbers to obtain employment or steal a victim's tax refund.

  • Social Security fraud
  • Fraudulent employment
  • Stolen tax refund

Account related:

Thieves open new or misuse current bank accounts.

  • Bank accounts hacked
  • Fraudulent withdrawals
  • Credit cards stolen
  • Pin numbers changed

Id Theft Complaints Per Bank Sector & Sub-Type

Phone and utilities fraud:

Thieves open accounts in the victim's name.

  • Cell phone accounts
  • Gas, electric accounts
  • Cable & internet services

Child and Medical ID Theft in US

Child-related:

Thief uses child's identity fraudulently.

  • Student loans
  • Child's SSN

Health Insurance and Medical fraud:

Thieves use victim's insurance information to obtain medical care.

  • Appointments
  • Procedures
  • Hospital Visits

Government Documents Fraud:

Thief obtains and uses or sells victim's federally issued document.

  • Passports
  • Birth certificates
  • Driver's licenses

Cyberspace Identity Theft:

Fraudulent activity on online accounts.

  • Email account hacked
  • Account user added (Ebay, Amazon, etc.)
  • Username & Passwords changed

Other:

Miscellaneous types of identity theft.

  • Life Insurance fraud
  • Automobile Insurance fraud
  • Employment fraud

How To Take Action In Case Of ID Theft

ID Theft Complaints per Bank Sector & Sub-type

2008 – 2012

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a government-run consumer protection agency working throughout the U.S. to detect and prevent identity theft, fraud, and other deceptive business activity. The FTC official website is a go-to for ID theft related information, including the immediate steps to take when you suspect you've been a victim of ID theft:

While doing all these things, the Federal Trade Commission recommends that consumers keep track of their progress with carefully logged phone calls, certified stubs on mail, and official documentation.

Specific Resources and Helpful Guides from the FTC: 

Step By Step Guidelines to Resolving Specific ID Theft Issues  

How To Avoid Identity Theft

Theft quiz:

Take or play one of the many online quizzes and games about identity theft to brush up on your knowledge and potentially learn some valuable information.

Preventative measures to reduce the risk of ID theft:

Protect your personal information by doing the following:

Protect your computer from cyberspace identity thieves:

Federal resources, organizations and laws

Department of the Treasury

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's role as stated on the official website is to act as the steward of the U.S. economic and financial systems. As such, they can act as a resource when victims' identities are stolen and finances are affected.

Department of Justice

The U.S. Department of Justice's role is to uphold and enforce the law, and to ensure public safety against domestic threats. It also acts as a leader in preventing and controlling crime. By the very nature of its definition, the Dept. of Justice is here to serve the U.S. victims of the crime of identity theft. See below for the U.S. Dept. of Justice's resource pages:

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

The FDIC is a Congress-designed independent agency responsible for upholding and promoting U.S. citizen confidence in our financial system. Identity theft is their responsibility when it comes to breaks and holes in the financial system of a victim. See below for the FDIC's resources:

Social Security Administration

As issuers of United States Social Security cards to citizens, it is the responsibility of the Social Security Administration to provide hotline numbers, Social Security card replacement, information on reclaiming identity, and other advice to victims of identity theft who have had their Social Security cards stolen or hacked. See below for helpful resources from the SSA:

U.S. Postal Inspection Service

It is the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's job to protect U.S. citizens' mail from criminal activity and other types of misuse, and so are also intricately involved with fighting back against identity theft.

United States Federal Laws Serving Citizens to Prevent, Detect, and Recover from Identity Theft

Federal Identity Theft Laws:

Federal Credit Laws:

Federal False Identification Laws:

Federal Privacy Laws:

Monitor Your Credit Score

Monitor Your Credit Score

  • Ongoing scanning and monitoring of all 3 credit bureaus
  • Score updates based on data from Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion®
  • Prompt alerts notifying you of any changes to your credit

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