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Identity Theft: How It Works and What You Can Do



Identity Theft


Here’s how it works:

Someone gets your personal information and runs up bills in your name. They might use your Social Security or Medicare number, your credit card, or your medical insurance-along with your good name.

How would you know? You could get bills for things you didn’t buy or services you didn’t get. Your bank account might have withdrawals you didn’t make. You might not get bills you expect. Or, you could check your credit report and find accounts you never knew about.


Here’s what you can do:

1. Protect your information. Put yourself in another person’s shoes. Where would they find your credit card or Social Security number? Protect your personal information by shredding documents before you throw them out, by giving your Social Security number only when you must, and by using strong passwords online.

2. Read your monthly statements and check your credit. When you get your account statements and explanations of benefits, read them for accuracy. You should recognize what’s there. Once a year, get your credit report for free from or 1-877-322-8228. The law entitles you to one free report each year from each credit reporting company. If you see something you don’t recognize, you will be able to deal with it.

 Want to know more? Sign up for scam alerts at

 Federal Trade Commission |

 Please Report Identity Theft

If you suspect identity theft, act quickly. Please report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

  • Call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP

(1-877-382-4357) or TTY 1-866-653-4261 

  • Go online:

 The FTC operator will give you the next steps to take.

Visit to learn more.