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
Equifax – (800) 525-6285 or
Experian – (888) 397-3741 or
Trans Union – (800) 680-7289 or
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
Experian – (888) 397-3742 or
Trans Union – (800) 680-7289 or

You should also learn more about identity theft from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

1700 G Street, Northwest

Washington, DC 20552