How to spot identity theft and protect yourself

We've all heard of it, but what does it mean? Here's our definition of identity theft and how you can avoid it.

The internet makes things like shopping and banking quicker and easier than ever, but that convenience isn't without security risks. Even the most secure sites you transact with may experience a security breach. With identity theft on the rise, it's more important than ever to take steps to protect your personal information even if you've never been impacted by a breach.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is a quickly growing crime in America. In an identity theft crime, someone steals personal information like your name, address, Social Security number and account numbers to assume your identity, steal your assets and damage your credit. Identity theft victims often don't realize they've been affected until their credit and finances are already damaged.

What kind of crimes should I watch out for?

The most common type of identity theft is new account fraud – when someone opens a new account or applies for a loan using personal information they've stolen. Account fraud can damage a victim's credit score. Less prevalent but more commonly known is credit card fraud or theft, known as account takeover. Account takeover can happen even with your card safely in your wallet if your credit card number is stolen from an unsecured website transaction or through a data breach. Look out for suspicious activity on your credit cards to avoid this type of identity theft. Credit card companies often provide a free transaction monitoring service and will notify you of suspicious activity so you can report this type of identity theft as soon as possible.

How can I protect my personal information?

A good rule of thumb is to never give your personal information out when solicited. Identity theft criminals will often employ deceptive schemes like scams to gain access to your personal information. Be suspicious of anyone calling to request information like your Social Security number or bank account number. Even if the caller claims to represent the IRS, your utility company or your credit card company you should be cautious. Be sure to safeguard personal and financial information, including online banking login credentials, checks and debit card PINs, and properly destroy sensitive mailings and financial documents.

How can I protect my identity?

There are many services available to help you stay one step ahead of scams and identity theft, such as credit monitoring. You can regularly check your credit report on your own, and we recommend you do. Keep your personal information safe and protected, especially your Social Security number and card. Stay informed about trending types of scams and how to recognize them.

What do I do if my information has been compromised?

If you believe you've been the victim of identity theft, take action quickly. Contact the major credit bureaus, your banks and your card issuers. You may also need to contact law enforcement.


Get more information or sign up for alerts with credit bureaus and federal agencies to help monitor your credit and keep up on identity theft news.

Sign up for fraud alerts from major credit bureaus., opens in a new tab

888.397.3742, opens in a new tab

800.680.7289, opens in a new tab


Find up-to-date information on recent and common scams.

FBI Common Fraud Schemes1, opens in a new tab FBI Cyber Crime1, opens in a new tab Federal Trade Commision Scam Alerts1, opens in a new tab

Get more information from the experts.

IdentityTheft.gov1, opens in a new tab Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft1, opens in a new tab

Get assistance for your business identity and credit.

Dun & Bradstreet1, opens in a new tab