Identity Theft Is on the Rise

Joyce B. Robinson

May 20, 2024

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Identity theft is on the rise in the USA. It occurs when a thief obtains your personal information and uses it for fraud. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 2.6 million fraud reports last year. Nearly 100,000 people reported losing $10,000 or more. The most common types of identity theft, as well as steps you can take to help combat them, are listed below:

Financial Identity Theft - Your bank account or credit card numbers are used to steal money or make purchases, or your Social Security Number (SSN) is used to open a new credit card. Review your accounts monthly. Thieves start by making small credit or debit charges in hopes you don’t notice them.

Tax Identity Theft - Your personal information is used to file a tax return and the thief gets a refund. Beware of phony phone calls, texts, and emails. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not contact consumers using this method. Never provide any personal information in response. Contact the IRS by looking up the phone number yourself. Never call the phone number the thief provides.

Medical Identity Theft - Your personal information is used to receive health care in your name. Review any Explanation of Benefits statements from your health insurer for unfamiliar charges. If you see activity you don’t recognize, or get bills for medical services you didn’t receive, call the provider and dispute the charges.

Child Identity Theft - If you suspect child identity theft, check with the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies to see if your child has a credit report. If they do, fi le an Identity Theft Report with the FTC, and place a security freeze on your child’s credit report.

Criminal Identity Theft - Occurs when someone who has been arrested provides your personal information to law enforcement. Contact law enforcement immediately. Limit the amount of personal information you share on social media.

For more information about criminal identity theft, visit the Department of Justice webpage on criminal fraud at: identity-theft-and-identity-fraud.

Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Following these tips will aid in protecting yourself from identity theft: Store personal information in a safe place, never carry your Social Security card in your wallet, and only give your SSN when necessary; don’t share personal information on the internet; place a hold on your mail when you are away from home for several days; shred account statements and expired credit cards; avoid using public networks; install firewalls and virus-detection software on home computers; and review your credit reports at least once a year. Order it for free from

Reporting Identity Theft?

Request that consumer reporting agencies place “fraud alerts” in your fi le to let creditors know that you may be a victim of identity theft. An initial fraud alert stays in your fi le for one year and an extended one for seven years. Freeze your credit files with Equifax: 1(800) 525- 6285, Experian: 1 (888) 397-3742, and Trans Union: 1(800) 680-7289 for free. Credit freezes prevent someone from applying for and getting approval for a credit account. Also, report identity (ID) theft to the FTC online at or by phone at 1 (877) 438-4338.

If you are a victim of identity thief, fi le a report with your police department and consult with an attorney. ■

Resources for this article are: American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and Equifax Consumer Services Center.

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