Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal identifying information without your permission. This information may include your name, address, driver license number, Social Security number, mother's maiden name, birth date, or financial information such as your bank account, credit card, or PIN number.
on this page:Watching for Identity Theft If You Become a Victim Report ID Theft
oag id theft web site:texasfightsidtheft.gov ID Theft Victim's Kit
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attorney general columns:Identity Theft Columns Correcting Your Credit Report Providing Your Social Security Number
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credit reports:Annual Credit Report Service Equifax Experian Transunion
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Identity thieves can use your personal information to open credit cards or checking accounts, make purchases using your existing bank account or credit card, get a bogus driver license or Social Security card, make long distance calls, or apply for a job. However, you can take steps to protect your identity.
Preventing Identity Theft
- Minimize the amount of personal financial information you carry. Memorize passwords and PIN numbers. Do not carry them.
- Keep financial information in a secure place in your home. Shred documents before throwing them away. Purchase a cross-cut shredder to better protect your information.
- Do not give sensitive information to unsolicited callers. Legitimate businesses will not make unsolicited calls asking for your Social Security or bank account numbers. Caller ID information can be spoofed, so do not rely on the name and number that is on your box.
- Shield your hand when entering your PIN at a bank ATM or when making long distance calls with a calling card. Take your ATM slip and shred it before throwing it away.
- Pick up new checks or credit cards at your bank rather than having them delivered to your home. Do not print your driver's license or social security number on your checks.
- If your bank or credit card statement does not arrive on time, call to make sure they sent it to the proper address. Also contact the Post Office to see if a change of address has been filed in your name. A thief may steal or divert your statements to hide the theft.
Because of the nature of identity theft, you may not realize your identity has been stolen until much later. By then, your good name and credit history can be in ruins. Because nothing can guarantee you protection from identity thieves, you should also be vigilant to detect theft as quickly as possible.
Watching for Identity Theft
Check your bank account and credit billing statements carefully each month for unauthorized activity. If you receive a credit card in the mail that you did not request, call the issuer to find out why. If it was requested by someone else in your name, cancel it immediately. When creating a password or pin, do not use numbers such as your birth date or the last four digits of your Social Security number. Also avoid using names, such as your mother's maiden name or your birthplace, that are likely to appear in public records.
If you are over 25, you should receive a Social Security statement by mail each year. Check it thoroughly and report any inaccuracies to the Social Security Administration. You can order a copy of your statement by calling (800) 772-1213.
You should review your credit reports for errors or fraud. You can order a free copy from each of the three credit bureaus once a year from the website www.annualcreditreport.com. Even if you have not been a victim of identity theft, consider asking the credit bureaus to place a security alert on your account as a protective measure. This alert instructs creditors to call you personally to verify applicant information when applying for new credit. While this will prevent you from getting instant credit, such as on-site approval for store charge cards, it will also stop others from getting credit in your name. Be sure to ask how long the alert will last, how to extend it and how to remove it.
If you need extreme protection, you can take the additional step of placing a security freeze on your credit report. A security freeze allows you to freeze, or lock, your credit files with each of the three major credit bureaus, so that lenders and retailers generally cannot access your credit information. A freeze will cost you money both to initiate and lift.
To learn whether any bad checks have been passed in your name, contact the Shared Check Authorization Network (SCAN). SCAN has the ability to quickly determine whether your checks have been fraudulently used in the United States. You can call SCAN at (800) 262-7771.
If you are suspicious that someone has accessed your bank account without authorization or has passed a check in your name, contact your bank immediately.
Following these steps will help you to know if you become a victim of identity theft.
If You Become a Victim
If you become a victim, it's important you act quickly. Visit our identity theft Web site, texasfightsidtheft.gov to find a wealth of helpful information including our Identity Theft Kit. Information at texasfightsidtheft.gov will help you stop a perpetrator from continuing to use your identity and help you recover from the effects. Information on the site includes: how to report the crime, work with businesses, close fraudulent accounts, and place a security alert and/or freeze on your credit report.
You can also contact the Victims Initiative for Counseling Advocacy and Restoration of the Southwest (VICARS) at www.idvictim.org. VICARS is a program of the Texas Legal Services Center that provides free civil legal services to victims of identity theft and financial fraud.
If another person is arrested and falsely uses your name or other personal information, Texas law allows you to have this information expunged from the arrest record. Contact the Crime Records Service at the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) for more information on the expunction process.
Report ID Theft
You can contact the Federal Trade Commission's Dallas office to report identity theft in Texas. Their Dallas office covers all of Texas.
Federal Trade Commission
100 N. Central Expressway, Suite 500
Dallas, TX 75201
You can also file a complaint with our office. For a consumer complaint form call our Consumer Protection Division at (800) 621-0508 or file on line.