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Identity Theft Basics

n I. What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information — to take over your credit accounts, to open new ones, to take out a loan, to rent an apartment, to access bank accounts, or to commit many other crimes using your identity. When identity theft strikes, the effects can be devastating. What’s more, because it frequently involves no physical theft, identity theft may not be noticed by its victims until significant damage has been done, potentially several months and thousands of dollars later.

How Do Thieves Do It?

First, they steal your personal information by …

  • Going through your mail or trash, looking for bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, and tax information.

  • Stealing personal information from your wallet or purse, such as identification, and credit or bank cards.

  • Completing change-of-address forms to redirect your mail.

  • Acquiring personal information you share over unsecured sites on the Internet.

  • Buying personal information about you from an inside source. For example, a store employee may get your information from a credit application or by “skimming” your credit card when you make a purchase.

  • Accessing your personnel records at work.

Then, they use your personal information by …

  • Opening new credit card accounts using your name, date of birth, and Social Security Number. When they use these credit cards and do not pay the bills, the delinquency is reported on your credit report.

  • Establishing phone or cellular service in your name.

  • Opening a bank account in your name and writing bad checks on the account.

  • Counterfeiting checks or debit cards and draining your bank account.

  • Buying cars by taking out auto loans in your name.

  • Calling your credit card issuer and pretending to be you, changing the address on the account, requesting new cards be issued and the credit limit increased. Bills get sent to the new address, so you do not realize there is a problem until you check your credit report.

  • Filing for bankruptcy using your name to avoid paying debts they have incurred under your name.

Identity Theft Statistics

The 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report published by Javelin Strategy and Research reports that in 2009:

  • 11,100,000 adults became ID fraud victims (4.8% of the

    • U.

      S. population)

  • The total annual fraud amount was $54 billion.

Sources: Javelin Strategy and Research, 2010, Identity Fraud Survey Report

n II. Ten Important Steps You Can Take to Prevent Yourself from Becoming A Victim of Identity and to Minimize the Potential Damage

According to the 2010 Javelin Identity Fraud Survey Report, there is an upturn in fraudsters targeting consumers’ existing credit card accounts, and opening new accounts with stolen information.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to prevent identity theft and credit fraud entirely, but by managing your personal information carefully, you can substantially reduce the likelihood that theft will happen to you. The following are some of the things you can do:

1. Lock your Equifax credit file

Equifax Credit Report Control™1, found in Equifax Complete Premier™, and other selected products lets you decide whether your Equifax credit file can be accessed (certain exceptions apply*), and keeping your Equifax credit file locked can help prevent identity thieves from getting credit in your name. This feature gives you greater protection and peace of mind because companies will not be able to pull your credit report without your authorization. When you are applying for loans or credit, Equifax Credit Report Control allows you and only you to unlock your Equifax credit file for a period of time, or even for specific companies. You can also make changes to your lock status online or over the phone when you are on the go.

1Equifax is pleased to provide this information for your convenience, however it is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional or legal advice of any kind or description. The information contained in these materials is believed to be reliable at the time it was written but it cannot be guaranteed in so far as it is applied to any particular individual or situation.

Equifax Dedicated Customer Support


1-800-4 EQUIFAX


24 Hours a Day


7 Days a Week

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