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What Is Identity Theft?

Video description

Routine steps we can all take to protect our personal information and reduce our risk of identity theft.

Video transcript

NARRATOR: Identity theft happens. It’s an unfortunate fact of modern life.

But there are certain steps you can take to help keep your personal information from falling into the wrong hands.

Everyday you do things to protect what’s most important to you. And you know what? You do them almost automatically.

Routine things like looking both ways before you cross… brushing your teeth… and buckling your seatbelt.

Another routine to get into is keeping tabs on your identity and personal information. Here are five easy ways you can do it:

Read your credit card and bank statements carefully and often every month. Know your payment due dates. If a bill doesn’t show up when you expect it, look into it.

Read the statements from your health insurance plan. Make sure the claims paid match the care you got.

Shred any documents with personal and financial information.

Review your three credit reports at least once a year. It’s easy and free.

And before you know it, protecting your personal information can be as routine as locking your doors at night.

Visit ftc.gov/idtheft for more information.

Prevent Child Identity Theft

Identity theft is a commonly discussed topic for adults, and most know they can monitor their credit reports and receive fraud warnings when someone is attempting to use one of their accounts.

However, child identity theft is something most people don’t think about, but it can happen to anyone just as easily. Because parents and guardians don’t have open credit reports for their children, they don’t expect to need to check on any possible fraud.

Identity thieves can use a child’s identity to get a job, obtain government benefits, medical care and other financial loans.

How to Prevent It

You can help prevent child identity theft by safely storing all documents with your child’s personal information. This includes their date of birth, Social Security number and birth certificate.

Only share their personal information with people you trust, and when entering it online, make sure you are using a secure internet connection. Also check with your child’s school to see who has access to their personal information. Openly discuss with your child the importance of keeping personal information safe.

Properly dispose of all materials that contain your child’s personal information. Shred letters, forms and other papers that include this information. You should also permanently delete this information off any electronic devices before getting rid of them. Treat the safety of their personal information just as you would your own.

Learn more about child identity theft and how to spot it. (PDF)

Someone illegally using your Social Security number causes a lot of problems. Learn what to do if this happens to you.

Asked by Anonymous

I received an email the other day that I believe is a scam using the IRS as the sender. Where can forward this to have it checked out?

The IRS has recently issued warnings about phony e-mails that are trying to steal your personal information. 

If you receive an e-mail that claims to be from the IRS and asks for your personal information, follow these steps:

  • Do not reply.
  • Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
  • Do not click on any links. If you clicked on a links and entered confidential information, visit the IRS identity protection page.
  • Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.
  • After you forward it, delete the original email message.

Learn more about how to report suspicious e-mails or phishing schemes to the IRS.

Stay up to date to protect your self from scams and identity theft.