Identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number or other personal information to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund. Most people who experience identity theft must take several steps to recover. IdentityTheft.gov is a resource to help you report and recover from identity theft. The site provides step-by-step advice and helpful resources like easy-to-print checklists and sample letters. If you believe that someone is using your personal information, visit IdentityTheft.gov and/or contact Grand Traverse County Central Dispatch at 231-922-4550 and request to speak with a police officer.
Take steps to protect yourself from identity theft:
Secure your social security number. Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet or write your number on your checks. Only give out your social security number (SSN) when absolutely necessary.
- Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for personal information (your name, birthdate, social security number, or bank account number) by phone, mail, or online.
- Watch out for “shoulder surfers.” Shield the keypad when typing your passwords on computers and at ATMs.
- Collect mail promptly. Ask the post office to put your mail on hold when you are away from home.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
- Review your receipts. Ask for carbon copies and incorrect charge slips as well. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired cards, to prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
- Store personal information in a safe place at home and at work.
- Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
- Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess easily. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases.
Order your credit report once a year and review to be certain that it doesn't include accounts that you have not opened. Check it more frequently if you suspect someone has gained access to your account information.
There are many ways that you might discover that someone is using your information. You might get a notice from the IRS or find unfamiliar accounts on your credit report. You might notice strange withdrawals from your bank account, get bills that aren’t yours, or get calls about debts that you don’t owe.
If you see one of these warning signs of identity theft, act quickly. Taking these steps will help you limit the damage. IdentityTheft.gov will guide you through each step.
Call the companies where you know fraud occurred.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and get copies of your report.
- Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
File a report with your local police department.
If you are a victim of identity (ID) theft, report it immediately. The Federal Trade Commission and your local police department are critical in filing the complaint. Once you file the ID theft with the FTC, you will have an ID theft affidavit. File the crime with the local police and get a police report when available. These two documents together are your identity theft report. Your identity theft report will be very important as you resolve the problem with creditors, banks, and any other companies where fraudulent accounts were set up in your name.
Then, take a deep breath and begin to repair the damage. Depending on your situation, your next step might be closing accounts opened in your name, or reporting fraudulent charges to your credit card company. IdentityTheft.gov can help — no matter what your specific identity theft situation is.