Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of America's fastest growing crime trends. Operating under a variety of methods, identity thieves obtain key pieces of our identities and fraudulently use this information for illegal gain.

Keeping Personal Information Safe

Safeguarding your personal information is critical. Follow these steps to combat identity theft:

  • Don't carry extra credit cards; only take what you must have
  • Shred all unneeded financial statements, receipts, "pre-approved" credit offers, etc.; Dumpster divers can use these offers to order credit cards in your name and mail them to their address. Always do the same with other sensitive information, such as credit card receipts and phone bills
  • Check your bills thoroughly for unknown charges or activity
  • Investigate any letters or statements regarding credit or property that you did not apply for or purchase
  • Do not write your social security number on any documents unless lawfully required
  • Never have your social security number listed on your driver's license
  • Request a credit report at least once a year to determine any unauthorized inquiries or activity
  • Order your social security benefits statement once a year to make sure that no one is using your social security number for means of income
  • Install a lockable mailbox at your residence to reduce mail theft
  • Limit the number of credit cards you have and cancel inactive accounts
  • Reconcile your check and credit card statements in a timely fashion. Immediately challenge any purchases you did not make
  • Scrutinize your utility and subscription bills to make sure the charges are yours
  • Keep a list of all your credit and bank accounts in a secure place so you can quickly call the issuers to inform them about missing or stolen cards. Include account numbers, expiration dates and telephone numbers of customer service and fraud departments
  • Avoid credit repair scams. If you are tempted to contact a credit repair company for help, use considerable caution. The FTC and a number of state attorney generals have sued credit repair companies for false promises to remove bad information from credit reports. Only inaccurate information may be removed from your credit report; negative information that is accurate (such as a bankruptcy filing or a defaulted loan) will stay on your credit report as long as governing laws allow
  • Never give any credit card, bank or Social Security information to anyone by telephone unless you can positively verify that the call is legitimate
  • Minimize exposure of your Social Security and credit card numbers. If the numbers are requested for check-cashing purposes, ask if the business has alternative options, such as a check-cashing card
  • Do not have your bank send your new checks to your home address. Tell the bank that you prefer to pick them up
  • Destroy all checks immediately after you close a checking account. Destroy or keep in a secure place any courtesy checks that your bank or credit card company sends to you
  • Do not allow your financial institution to print your Social Security Number on your personal checks


If you are a victim of identity theft or fraud:

  • Contact your local police department immediately;
  • Report the crime by phone to any creditor that might be affected. Follow up in writing and keep copies of this documentation
  • Call the credit agencies:
    • Equifax: 800-525-6285
    • Experian (Formerly TRW): 888-397-3742
    • Trans Union: 800-680-7289

Other Helpful Information

  • Social Security Benefits: 800-772-1213
  • Social Security Fraud Hotline: 800-269-0271
  • Consumer Credit Counseling Service: 800-388-2227
  • Unwanted Junk Mail: Send a letter requesting that your name be removed from all mailing lists for junk mail:
    Direct Marketing Association
    P.O. Box 9008
    Farmingdale, NY 11735
    Phone: 212-768-7277
  • Fight Identity Theft: This website is a valuable resource tool for anyone dealing with identity theft