Identity Theft is one of today's fastest growing crimes. It occurs when someone steals your personal information and identification. They may open credit card accounts, apply for loans, rent apartments and purchase phone services, all in your name. In many cases, they request address changes so you never see the bills for their activity. These impersonators spend your money as quickly as possible. Most victims never know it until they apply for credit, or receive a call from a collection agency. Clearing your name and erasing the effects of identity theft can be a nightmare and take a great deal of time. You can spend months or even years re-establishing your credit worthiness.
Store personal information in a safe place.
Shred financial statements, bank checks, credit card offers, charge receipts and credit applications before discarding them.
Don't release personal information.
Never disclose account numbers, Social Security numbers and credit card numbers over the phone or email unless you know the person or organization you are dealing with.
Guard against mail theft. Promptly remove incoming mail after it has been delivered, or contact the Post Office to hold your mail when you're planning to be away from home for an extended time.
Deposit outgoing mail into a secure, official U. S. Postal Service collection box.
Be suspicious of any offer made by telephone, website, email or even traditional mail that seems too good to be true.
Obtain your free credit reports by mail, by phone or online from a service that is run jointly by the three credit bureaus.
If you order your credit report online, you must print it or save it to your computer, or it will be unavailable once you leave the screen.
The free program applies only to the credit report itself. Credit scores are not included in the free credit report, but they can be purchased from the credit bureaus for a fee.
Checking Your Credit Report
What if there are mistakes in your credit report?
You have a right to dispute any inaccurate information in your credit report if you find mistakes on your credit report, contact the consumer reporting agency.
It is a good idea to check your credit report to make sure the information it cfontains is accurate.
How can you obtain a copy of your credit report?
Under Federal law, you have the right to obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the nationwide consumer reporting agencies once a year.
To order your free annual credit report:
By telephone: Call toll-free: 1-877-322-8228
On the web: Visit www.annualcreditreport.com
Mail your completed Annual Credit Report Request From (which you can obtain from the Federal Trade Commission's web site at http://ftc.gov/bcp/conline/include/requestfrom final.pdf to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
How can you get more information?
For more information about credit reports and your rights under Federal law, visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's website at