What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone's personally identifying information (PII), such as name, address, birth date, Social Security number, or mother's maiden name, in order to impersonate them. The stolen PII enables the thief to commit numerous forms of fraud which may include:
Taking over the victim's financial accounts
Opening new bank accounts in the victim's name
Applying for loans, credit cards, and Social Security benefits
Establishing utility or phone services
Tax-related ID theft such as submitting income tax documents to obtain refunds
See related information on Mail Theft, Credit Card Fraud, and Mail Fraud.
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How Do I Protect Myself From Identity Theft?
There are several precautions you can take to protect yourself from identity theft:
Retrieve mail as soon after delivery as possible, or have a friend do it.
Place your outgoing mail in one of the postal service’s convenient collection boxes, use the mail service at your place of business, or visit your local Post Office if security is a concern in your neighborhood.
Be certain to place your mail on hold with the Post Office if you are going to be away on vacation or business.
Call the sender of a valuable item to determine when the package should be expected.
Familiarize yourself with your financial institutions’ policy on changes of address submitted by phone or mail. Make sure they will call customers before making a change, or honoring any large withdrawal, not received in person.
Also, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service offers an informative brochure titled Publication 280, Identity Theft: Safeguarding Your Identity, available online for viewing and printing. You may order a copy by calling the Topeka Material Distribution Center toll-free at 1-800-332-0317.
The publication includes information that can help you in protecting your good name, including:
Tips on protecting yourself from identity theft.
Steps to take if you believe someone has stolen your identity.
Phone numbers and website addresses for the three major credit reporting agencies.
Links to Web sites with more information on ID theft.
Phone numbers to call to get publications dealing with identity theft from other organizations.
Addresses to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service divisions.
You can get additional information at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Identity Theft website.
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