Protecting Your Identity While You Shop

Identity theft is a serious crime that can have long-term negative consequences for its victims. It can result in damage to a person's credit that leads to an inability to rent an apartment, secure a loan, or get a job. ID theft can also leave a person with medical bills for care that they never received. Identity thieves can also commit serious crimes under other people's names, putting their victims in trouble with the law. Even children can become victims of identity theft. In some cases, the criminals in question may even be a child's parent or family member who uses their identity fraudulently. Identity thieves have a large arsenal of tactics that they use to steal people's identities. These include (but are not limited to) phony coupon scams, looking over people's shoulders to steal information as they type, pilfering personal information from papers in a Dumpster, or tricking people into giving personal information to scammers over the phone, on a website, or by email. According to the credit reporting agency TransUnion and the IRS, 2.7 million people were struck by identity theft in 2014.

Consumers can take a variety of steps to protect themselves from this type of crime, including shredding papers that contain personal information, using strong passwords to protect their financial and government website accounts, and removing mail from mailboxes as soon as possible. People should also check their credit reports regularly and watch for strange or new financial accounts that they never opened, scan their bank accounts to check for unfamiliar purchases, and look out for any unexpected change of address notices. These are warning signs of identity theft and should be responded to immediately. Those who suspect or discover that they are a victim of identity theft should file a report with law enforcement, place short- and long-term fraud alerts on their credit report, take steps to dispute inaccurate credit report information, and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission.

What Is Identity Theft?

Common Identity Theft Examples

What to Do if You Are a Victim

Identity Theft Prevention