Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when someone else uses your personal information, without your knowledge or permission, to commit fraud. For example, thieves may open a new credit card account, take out a student loan, or obtain a cell phone using your information. They also may run up charges on your existing credit accounts or take money from your checking account.

The Federal Trade Commission has put together information to help you minimize the chances that you will become a victim of identity theft and to speed your recovery if you do become a victim.

Although there is no way to completely prevent becoming the victim of identity theft, there are several precautions you can take to reduce the risk. Click here for information on how to deter identity thieves.

If your information has been stolen and used by an identity thief, there are a few steps you should take immediately to minimize the harm, and several follow-up steps you may want to take to restore your good name and credit record. The FTC's identity theft web site, explains these steps. You can also click here for a publication on recovering from identity theft.

Sometimes solving the problems that result from identity theft can be very difficult. If you decide to work with a victim assistance counselor or an attorney to resolve your identity theft related problems, you may want to refer them to the FTC's Guide for Assisting Identity Theft Victims. The guide is designed to address matters that victims are unable to resolve on their own. The guide includes sample dispute letters for victims and sample attorney follow-up letters, as well as checklists, an ID Theft Affidavit, a Victim's Action Log, and federal statutes and regulations. The guide is available at or you can click here to find the online Guide for Assisting Identity Theft Victims.