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Identity theft happens when one person assumes another person's identity to perform a fraud or other criminal act. For most of us, the danger is not someone trying to impersonate us: it's someone trying to steal our money or our good credit.
If you are the victim of a recent identity theft, visit this page:
Florida Attorney General's Identity Theft page.
How do identity thieves get my information?
Contrary to popular belief, more identity theft happens in the real world than online.
- Stealing wallets, purses, or your mail--including bank and credit card statements and tax information
- Rummaging through your trash or the trash at a business
- Posing as someone who legitimately and legally needs information about you, such as an employer or landlord
- Buying personal information from "insiders," such as unscrupulous employees
- Stealing personal information you provide to an unsecured site on the Internet
Many of these come through phone calls.
- Scammers claiming to be government officials or police officers
- Callers claiming they are interested in an item you have for sale or rent
- Someone claiming to be from Microsoft or Windows who wants to help you with a computer problem you didn't even know you had
However, there are plenty of high-tech ways to steal your identity, too.
- Phishing emails
- Malicious websites
- Breaches of data from large companies, agencies, or other organizations—unfortunately we cannot prevent these
Avoiding Identity Theft:
You can never completely protect your personal information; there is just too much of it already available in countless places. Your best best is to lessen the odds of becoming a victim while you remain vigilant.
Lessening the Odds:
- Shred all ATM receipts, credit statements, credit cards, and bank statements before throwing them away.
- Destroy labels on prescription drugs before discarding the container.
- Never give out personal information online simply because someone asks for it.
- Medical offices collect a lot of personal information. Verify with your providers that they shred the forms you fill out.
Even if someone steals your identity, you can keep them from destroying your life by keeping a close watch on your finances.
- Wherever possible create online accounts with your bank and creditors. Online accounts make it much easier to monitor the activity, even daily if you want.
- Reconcile your bank account monthly when you receive your statement and notify your bank of discrepancies immediately.
- Never give your credit card number or social security number over the telephone unless you initiated the call. That way you can be sure whom you are speaking with.
- Keep a list of telephone numbers to call to report the loss or theft of your wallet, credit cards, etc.
- Report unauthorized financial transactions to your bank, credit card company, and the police as soon as you detect them.
- Review a copy of your credit report at least once each year. You can apply for a free credit report yearly at www.annualcreditreport.com. Notify the credit bureau in writing of any questionable entries and follow through until they are explained or removed.
If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft:
If you think your identity has been stolen or used without your permission you need to act quickly.
- For any accounts that have been fraudulently opened or accessed, contact the security departments of the appropriate creditors or financial institutions, and explain what happened. Close these accounts. Put passwords on any new accounts you open.
- Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus and report that your identity has been stolen. Ask that a "fraud alert" be placed on your file and that no new credit be granted without your approval. Here are the numbers for reporting fraud:
- Equifax — 1-800-525-6285
- Experian — 1-888-397-3742
- Trans Union — 1-800-680-7289
- Contact your local police department or sheriff's office to file a report. Under Florida law, the report may be filed in the location in which the offense occurred, or the city or county in which you reside. When you file the report, provide as much documentation as possible, including copies of debt collection letters, credit reports, and your notarized ID Theft Affidavit.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by calling the ID Theft Hotline: 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338)
Secure Florida has put together an Information Kit helpful links and information for those who are a victim of, or want to learn more about identity theft.
The Secure Florida Staff recommends that all Florida residents, and especially those who have been the victims of identity theft, visit the Attorney General's Identity Theft page. There you will find advice and several helpful links, including the Florida Identity Theft Victim Kit.
Additionally, the IRS has taken numerous steps to combat identity theft and protect taxpayers. Visit their Identity Protection webpage for information covering a variety of scenarios involving identity theft.