Don’t let identity theft catch you off guard

Learn more about identity theft, and the steps you can take to help better protect yourself every day.

Identity theft checklist

Here are some steps you can take if you believe you’ve been a victim of identity theft. It all starts with taking action.

  • Contact company
    Contact company

    Contact the fraud department at the financial institution or company where you believe identity theft occurred.

  • Place fraud alert
    Place fraud alert

    Place a one-year fraud alert on your credit reports. Contact Equifax, and we’ll notify the other two major credit bureaus.

  • Lock or Freeze credit reports
    Lock or Freeze credit reports

    Use Lock & Alert™ to lock your Equifax credit report, or place a security freeze on your Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion credit reports.

  • Submit ID Theft affidavit
    Submit ID Theft affidavit

    File an affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov and get a recovery plan

  • File police report
    File police report

    File a police report with your local law enforcement agency.

  • Monitor accounts
    Monitor accounts

    Get a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus, and start monitoring all your accounts.

How identity theft happens

Identity thieves have gotten more sophisticated in their methods, and they can access your personal information in countless ways.

You can make it more difficult for identity thieves to open accounts in your name by locking your Equifax credit report with Lock & AlertTM, or placing a security freeze on your Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion credit reports.1

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Here are just a few of the ways:

  • Steal wallets or purses in order to obtain identification, credit cards, and bank cards;
  • Dig through mail and trash in search of bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit card offers, tax information, and other documents that may contain personal details;
  • Fill out change-of-address forms to forward mail, and intercept mail containing personal and financial information;
  • Buy personal information from an inside, third-party source, such as a company employee who has access to applications for credit;
  • Obtain personnel records from a victim’s place of employment;
  • “Skim” information from an ATM — this is done through an electronic device attached to an ATM that can steal the information stored on a credit or debit card’s magnetic strip;
  • Swipe personal information shared on unsecured websites or public WiFi;
  • Steal electronic records or information through some kind of unauthorized access;
  • “Phish” for electronic information with phony emails, text messages, and websites that seem legitimate, but are designed to steal sensitive information;
  • Pose as a home buyer during open houses in order to gain access to sensitive information casually stored in unlocked drawers.

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  • Attempt to open new bank or credit card accounts in your name;
  • Try to create counterfeit checks or debit cards;
  • Attempt to file for bankruptcy in your name;
  • Try to set up phone or utility services in your name.

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How to help prevent identity theft

There are steps you can take to help keep identity thieves from getting their hands on your sensitive personal and financial information. Secure personal documents, and be careful sharing online. Lock your computers and mobile devices, keep antivirus and anti-spyware software updated, and regularly check your credit reports for red flags.

To help better protect yourself from identity theft, use Lock & AlertTM to lock your Equifax credit report, or place a security freeze on your Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion credit reports.1

More information >

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), protecting your personal information can help reduce your risk of identity theft. Here are some of its suggestions for helping better protect your personal and financial information:

  • Keep personal documents and files secure. Keep your files and purse or wallet secure at work and at home. Limit the personal identification and credit or debit cards you carry to only those items you need. Cross-shred documents that may contain personal or sensitive information, such as receipts, credit or debit cards, and financial statements. And before you share sensitive information, ask what it will be used for and why it’s needed.
  • Keep your online information secure. Don’t give out personal information, especially if you didn’t initiate the contact or don’t know who you are dealing with. Don’t share your passwords – even with friends and family. And be extremely careful about the information you share on social networks – personal information shared online can be used by identity thieves to guess your passwords or answer “challenge” questions.
  • Secure your Social Security number. Leave your Social Security card at home. When someone asks you to share your Social Security number, or your child’s number, ask how it will be used, how it will be safeguarded, why it is needed, and if there are options if you choose not to share it.
  • Keep your devices secure. Don’t use an automated login that stores your username and password, and always lock your devices when they’re not being used. Install antivirus and anti-spyware software, and update them regularly. Don’t open files, click on links, or download programs sent by strangers. Be cautious about sharing your personal information over public WiFi networks.

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Once you've pulled a copy of your credit report, ask yourself the following questions to determine if you could be a victim of identity theft:

  • Is your personal information, such as your name and address, correct on your credit report?
  • Are there unfamiliar credit accounts listed on your credit report?
  • Do you have an unfamiliar account that has late payments or is in collections?
  • Are there inquiries listed on your credit report from companies you don’t recognize?

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  1. Locking your Equifax credit report will prevent access to it by certain third parties. Locking your Equifax credit report will not prevent access to your credit report at any other credit reporting agency. Entities that may still have access to your Equifax credit report include: companies like Equifax Global Consumer Solutions, which provide you with access to your credit report or credit score, or monitor your credit report as part of a subscription or similar service; companies that provide you with a copy of your credit report or credit score, upon your request; federal, state and local government agencies and courts in certain circumstances; companies using the information in connection with the underwriting of insurance, or for employment, tenant or background screening purposes; companies that have a current account or relationship with you, and collection agencies acting on behalf of those whom you owe; companies that authenticate a consumer's identity for purposes other than granting credit, or for investigating or preventing actual or potential fraud; and companies that wish to make pre-approved offers of credit or insurance to you.  To opt out of such pre-approved offers, visit www.optoutprescreen.com.