Consumer Guide: Identity Theft

Consumer Guide

The Definition

What is identity theft

  • Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.

The Deception

How thieves steal identity

  • Dumpster Diving -Skimming – stealing credit card numbers -Phishing – tricking people to reveal info -Changing Your Address -Old-Fashioned Stealing -Pretexting – using false pretenses to get info

The next wave

  • Several major credit card companies now issue cards with embedded RFID (radio frequency ID) chips. The chips allow you to simply wave your card over a scanner to pay, often without taking it out of your wallet.

Electronic pickpocketing

  • Security experts tell us that anybody with an RFID scanner, which can be obtained relatively cheap online, could potentially scan your credit card while it’s still in your pocket or purse. Credit card companies say electronic pickpocketing fraud is rare, and customers would not be held liable.


Protect your Social Security number

  • If someone asks for your SS number, ask: Why do you need my SS number? How will my SS number be used? How do you protect my SS number? What will happen if I don’t give you my SS number?

Treat your trash & mail carefully

  • To thwart an identity thief who may pick through your trash or recycling bins, always shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements.

Be on guard when using the internet

  • The Internet can give you access to information, entertainment, financial offers, and countless other services but at the same time, it can leave you vulnerable to online scammers, identity thieves and more.

Verify sources before sharing info

  • Identity thieves are clever, and may pose as representatives of banks, Internet service providers (ISPs), and even government agencies to get people to reveal their Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, account numbers, and other identifying information.

Safeguard purse and wallet

  • Protect your purse and wallet at all times. Don’t carry your Social Security number or card; leave it in a secure place. Carry only the identification information and the credit and debit cards that you’ll actually need when you go out.

Protect those cards

  • There are several ways to protect your RFID credit card. First, you can leave the card at when you don’t plan to use it. When you do take it with you, wrap it in tin foil or a special sleeve designed to block the radio waves from scanners. Special wallets and purses are also available.


Signs of identity theft

  • Stay alert for the signs of identity theft, like: Accounts you didn’t open and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain. Fraudulent or inaccurate information on your credit reports. Failing to receive bills or other mail. Receiving credit cards you didn’t apply for.

How to find out if ID was stolen

  • Bill collection agencies may contact you for overdue debts you never incurred. You may have problems when applying for loans. You receive mail about an apartment you never rented, a house you never bought, or a job you never held.

Monitor personal information

  • Look out for suspicious activity by monitoring bank, credit card, and any other financial statements, looking for charges you did not make.

Get a free credit report

  • Every consumer is eligible for a free credit report once every 12 months. Contact or call 877-322-8228


Steps to take if you’re a victim

  • Place a fraud alert on your credit reports Close accounts you believe have been tampered with File a complaint with the FTC File report with local police

What is fraud alert

  • Fraud alerts can help prevent an ID thief from opening any more accounts. Contact the consumer reporting companies: TransUnion – 1-800-680-7289 Equifax – 1-800-525-6285 Experian – 1-888-EXPERIAN

What is a credit freeze

  • Many states have laws that let consumers “freeze” their credit – in other words, letting a consumer restrict access to his or her credit report. If you place a credit freeze, potential creditors and other third parties will not be able to get access to your credit report unless you temporarily lift the freeze.

How do I prove identity theft

  • Applications or other transaction records related to the theft of your identity may help you prove that you are a victim. These documents also may contain information about the identity thief that is valuable to law enforcement.

Do I need a new SS number

  • Under certain circumstances, the Social Security Administration may issue you a new Social Security number – at your request – if, after trying to resolve the problems brought on by identity theft, you continue to experience problems. Consider this option carefully.

How to Protect Your Data Online

Ways to help keep your information private


Protect Yourself

Be wary of the web

  • Privacy experts recommend using caution when giving personal information on a website, especially when it comes to health information. Try to find a website that will give you health information and recommendations anonymously.

Use a nickname

  • Privacy experts recommend using a nickname when signing up for store rewards cards and magazine subscriptions

Don’t post private info

  • Be careful what you post on social media sites, which are mined for information

Credit card purchases

  • Remember that stores can sell data from your credit card purchases

Be careful with surveys

  • Filling out surveys may reveal more than you want

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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