Identity theft is a serious crime. It occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can cost you time and money. It can destroy your credit and ruin your good name.

DETER

Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.

Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write it on your checks.

Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Avoid disclosing personal information when using public wireless connections.

Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date.

Don't use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother's maiden name or the last four digits of your Social Security number.

Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if your have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done in your house.

DETECT

Routinely monitor your financial accounts and billing statements.

Be alert to:

Bills that do not arrive as expected,

Unexpected credit cards or statements,

Denials of credit for no apparent reason,

Calls or letters about purchases you did not make,

Charges on statements that you don't recognize.

Regularly inspect your credit report.

DEFEND

Defend against ID theft as soon as you suspect it.

Place a "Fraud Alert" on your credit reports and review the reports carefully. The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have toll-free cumbers for placing an initial 90-day fraud alert; a call to one company is sufficient:

Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)

TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285

Contact the security or fraud departments of each company, where an account was opened or charged without you okay.

File a Police Report to help you correct your credit report and deal with creditors who may want proof of the crime. 

Report theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigation.

This information was provided by the Federal Trade Commission. To learn more about ID theft and how to deter, detect, and defend against it, visit ftc.gov/idtheft. Or request copies of ID theft resources by writing to:

CONSUMER RESPONSE CENTER

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION

600 PENSYLVANIA AVE., NW, H-130

WASHINGTON, DC 20580

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