Learn what identity theft looks like and how to prevent it.

Identity theft can take many different forms, so learning to spot the signs and keep your data safe can help you avoid financial trouble.

What is identity theft? 

When someone commits identity theft, they steal your personal information (like name, address, social security numbers, credit card numbers and more) and use it to commit fraud. They might apply for a credit card or make unauthorized purchases. 

How can I prevent identity theft?

There are a few things you can do regularly to help prevent identity theft, like:

  • Only give out your personal information to sources you trust. 
  • Don’t give out bank account information, credit card numbers, social security numbers or usernames and passwords over the phone. 
  • Check credit card statements carefully and report anything unusual to your financial institution.
  • Choose unique PINs and passwords. Not easily identifiable facts or social security numbers.
  • Don’t write down PINs or passwords.

How can I spot identity theft? 

When identity theft happens to you, you want to know right away. There are a number of ways that you can spot identity theft when it’s happened to you. 

  • Your monthly account statements look incorrect or unusual.
  • Your monthly credit card statements look incorrect or unusual. 
  • Your medical bill is incorrect or a claim has been denied. 
  • Someone has already filed a tax return in your name.
  • You’ve been notified of a data breach.

This list is not comprehensive, so if you notice other signs of fraudulent or suspicious activity, it’s important to report them.

What do I do if I’ve experienced identity theft?

When you experience the signs of identity theft, it’s important to report it right away and create a plan for next steps. You can do this by contacting your financial institution and making a report and recovery plan at identitytheft.gov.