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 FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft.
The crime takes many forms. Maybe thieves rummaged through your trash, found a bank statement, and misused your checking account. Or, maybe they rented an apartment using your name. Maybe someone got a credit card using your identity and credit history, and bought expensive stereo equipment.
And maybe you found out about it months later, when your loan application was rejected or when you noticed charges on your credit card statement that you didn’t make.
Identity theft is serious. People whose identities have been stolen can spend hundreds of dollars and many days cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record.
The potential for damage, loss, and stress is considerable. Consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing, or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. They may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.
What to do if you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft:
Watch this 10 minute video with advice from FTC leaders, law enforcement, and victims on how to deter, detect, and defend against identity theft:
HELPFUL TIPS FROM THE FTC
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has provided some guidelines that may help you protect yourself from falling prey to identity theft or other fraud.
If you receive an email that warns you, with little or no notice, that an account will be shut down unless you reconfirm your billing information, you should not reply or click on the link in the email. Instead, directly contact the company cited in the email using a telephone number or website address that you know to be genuine.
Avoid emailing personal and financial information, unless you are using a secure form on the web site with which you are doing business.
Review credit card and Bridgeway FCU account statements as soon as you receive them to determine if there are any unauthorized charges or suspicious activity. If your statement is late by more than a couple of days, call the credit card company or Bridgeway FCU to confirm your billing address and account balances.
Report suspicious activity to the FTC. Send the actual spam email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you believe you have been a victim of a fraudulent scheme, file a complaint at www.ftc.gov.
Neither the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) nor any other federal financial agency uses email to request non-public information, such as account numbers, date of birth, or Social Security Number.