Identity Theft

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The FTC reports that approximately 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.

How do thieves steal an identity?

Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personally identifying information such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. For identity thieves, this information is as good as gold. Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including:

  • Dumpster Diving.  They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
     
  • Skimming.  They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
     
  • Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
     
  • Changing Your Address.  They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
     
  • Old-Fashioned Stealing.  They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.
     
  • Pretexting.  They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.

The following are federal government run websites where victims can learn the necessary steps to safeguard their identity and to repair any damage that has already occurred.

  • Federal Trade Commission
    On this site, consumers can learn how to avoid identity theft – and learn what to do if their identity is stolen. Businesses can learn how to help their customers deal with identity theft, as well as how to prevent problems in the first place. Law enforcement can get resources and learn how to help victims of identity theft.
     
  • United States Department of Justice
    The DOJ website is an excellent resource for people to visit to become educated on what identity theft is, how it happens and the impact it can have. It has an identity theft quiz that has helpful tips on how to avoid being a victim.
     
  • Internet Crime Complaint Center
    This site is a partnership between the FBI, National White Collar Crime Center and Bureau of Justice Assistance. It accepts online Internet crime complaints from either the person who believes they were defrauded or from a third party to the complainant. IC3 gives the victims of cyber crime a convenient and easy-to-use reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of suspected criminal or civil violations.
     
  • Virginia Office of the Attorney General
    This site provides step by step instructions on what to do if you have been the victim of identity theft including steps on how to obtain an identity theft passport and free online credit report.