Identity Theft


Identity Theft Scams

You could be eating dinner one night when a creditor calls, demanding payment on a credit card you know you never even applied for. Or suddenly one morning you get a call that your bank bounced a check when you were sure you had enough in the account to cover all your bills. People who have had their identity stolen vividly remember the horrible first days when they finally learned that someone was using their identity for mischief.

Just How Sneaky are Identity Thieves?

Quick Tip: Be sure to shred
all your financial documents.

Very sneaky, indeed! Identity thieves don’t have to break into your home or steal your wallet to gain information about you. Here are a few of the other scams they run: 

  • A waiter in a restaurant or a clerk in a store memorizes your credit card number. That, plus your mailing address and telephone number, could be enough to make purchases in your name by phone or on the Internet.
  • Some identity thieves steal pre-approved credit card offers from people’s mailboxes or trash. They activate the card with a change of address request and when the card comes through to the new address, they start shopping in your name.
  • People who go through your trash, aka “dumpster divers” can also get valuable information from cancelled checks, credit card statements, pay stubs and utility bills.
  • An Internet-savvy criminal can create a “phishing” site to convince you to give out your personal information including passwords, account numbers and Social Security number. Our “Avoid ‘Phishing’ Scams” section below tells you more.

Avoid Internet “Phishing” Scams

Password Tip

Don’t use anything a thief might guess. Avoid common passwords such as your:

  • Phone number
  • Birthday
  • Social Security Number
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Address

 “Phishing” scams occur when devious scammers put fraudulent messages on the Internet to get you to give up your personal information. Many promotional offers are actually tricks.

  • You get a “phishing” message from such bogus entities as “your Internet Service Provider,” “bank” or “credit card company” – saying they need to update, validate or confirm your account information.
  • The “phishers” ask for your password, account number, Social Security number, date of birth or other statistics.
  • Do not fall for this! Reputable companies don’t ask you to give out sensitive information through e-mail, especially information they already have on file!

How to Avoid Getting “Phished”?

The Federal Trade Commission recommends that you avoid “phishing” by taking the following steps:

  • Don’t reply to messages asking for sensitive personal information.
  • If you’re worried that something might legitimately be wrong with your account, go to the company’s Website (not the “phishing” link) or call them on the phone to see if there’s really a problem.
  • Keep an up-to-date firewall and anti-virus software on your computer so “phishing” e-mails can’t hurt your computer or track your Internet activities.
  • Forward “phishing” spam to
  • If you think you’ve been scammed by “phishing,” complain to, then go to to learn more about minimizing your identity-theft risk. 

For Details on the Newest Scams

To stay up-to-date on the latest scams visit websites such as and These sites feature information on online and telephone scams crooks use to trick you out of your money or personal information.

Now let's move on to techniques that you can use to prevent identity theft.

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