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Protecting Yourself Against Identity Theft

The following questions and answers regarding identity theft will help you recognize opportunities for identity theft and protect yourself and others.

Q: What is identity theft? 
A: Identity theft is a federal crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal information in a fraudulent or deceptive manner.

Q: What can I do to help prevent identity theft? 
A: You can prevent identity theft by safeguarding your personal information. Here are steps you should take to prevent identity theft:

  • Shred bank statements
  • Cut up unwanted pre-approved credit cards before throwing them away
  • Don’t give out your Social Security number unless it is absolutely necessary
  • Protect all passwords
  • Passwords aren’t just for financial statements. Whenever possible, put passwords on all your accounts, including telephone and utilities. When selecting a password, avoid easily available information such as your mother’s maiden name, your children’s names or your birth date.
  • Get a copy of your credit report
  • Carefully review every cell phone bill, credit card statement and bank statement
  • Keep virus protection and a firewall on personal and workplace computers
  • Don’t walk away from your computer with personal information on the screen

Q: What do I do if I suspect identity theft? 
A:  If you suspect there might be a problem or exposure, contact the police immediately. Also contact your bank and credit card companies, and the following major credit agencies:

Equifax – (800) 525-6285 or equifax.com 
Experian – (888) 397-3742 or experian.com 
Trans Union – (800) 680-7289 or transunion.com

You should also contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

1700 G Street, Northwest

Washington, DC  20552

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Website