Frauds & Scams, Privacy & Identity

Protect Yourself from Identity Thieves

February 8, 2024 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: April 18, 2024

Couple reviewing financial information on a laptop

Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information to impersonate you or steal from you.

Did you know the consequences of identity theft are not just financial?

These crimes have significant effects on relationships at work and home.

They impact physical, mental, and emotional health and lead to lost opportunities for victims that are often hard to measure.

Types of Identity Theft

There are 2 types of identity theft you should be aware of:

  • Thieves stealing your data, physically or digitally, without contacting you directly.
  • Thieves contacting you directly and convincing you to provide sensitive information. In these instances, you may never know how the thief got your information.

How Identity Thieves Use Your Information

Identity thieves steal personal information like your name, address, credit card or bank account numbers, Social Security number (SSN), and medical insurance account numbers. They use this information to:

  • Buy items with your credit cards or bank accounts.
  • Obtain new credit cards or accounts in your name.
  • Use your SSN to get a job.
  • Open phone or utility accounts in your name.
  • Steal your tax refund.
  • Use your health insurance to obtain medical care.
  • Pretend to be you if they are arrested.

How to Spot Identity Theft

To spot identity theft:

  • Keep track of your mail for missing bills or other documents.
  • Review your credit card and bank statements for unauthorized transactions.
  • Obtain and review your credit reports regularly to make sure they do not include accounts you have not opened.

Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

While no plan is perfect, taking the precautions below can help you better protect your personal information:

  • Protect documents that have personal information.
  • Ask questions before giving out your SSN.
  • Protect your personal information online and on your phone by using a strong password and adding multi-factor authentication when offered.
  • Safeguard your information on social networks.

What to Do if You Believe Someone Has Stolen Your Identity

  • Report fraud to the company where it occurred.
  • Contact a credit bureau to place a fraud alert on your credit report.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
  • File a police report.

For more information about how to protect your SSN from identity thieves, read our publication, Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number.  Please report suspected Social Security imposter scams — and other Social Security fraud — on the OIG’s website.

It’s important to protect yourself against identity theft because it can damage your credit status. Repairing this damage can cost you a great deal of time and money.

Please share this information with your family and friends.

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  1. John P.

    Read Hanuman Chalisa for peace of mind.

  2. Tammy L.

    I would like to know if there are any steps I can take as a preventative measure after receiving 2 credit card notifications of my SSN being on the Dark Web. I have checked my accounts and credit info and so far so good. But looking on the next steps i can take

    • John M.

      I too have received this notice. The automated message from the Credit bureau says to notify the Social security administration, but i cannot find where to do so.

    • S.D.

      Thanks for reading our blog and for your question, Tammy. You’ll find 10 tips on how to protect your Social Security number and other personal information at our blog. To learn more about Social Security fraud and how to report it, check out our Fraud Prevention and Reporting page. We hope this helps.


  3. Connie M.

    Does the legal wife of an American citizen that is not an American citizen able to receive a widows pension from social security for herself after the death of the American citizen husband? The wife does not have any minor children and is not 60 years old yet.. but the wife does reside in Texas.

    • C.B.

      Hi, Connie. Thanks for using our blog and for your question. In certain cases, noncitizens can receive Social Security benefits. For a wife, who is a noncitizen, to receive benefits, we must have evidence of her lawful presence in the U.S. That means before we can pay benefits for any given month, we must have evidence that she was lawfully present in the United States during that month. To learn more, visit our FAQ.

      In addition, she may be eligible to apply for survivors benefits when she reaches age 60 (age 50 or over if she has a disability). However, other factors may affect her entitlement to these benefits. She can find more information on our survivors benefits here. We hope this information is helpful.  

      • kevin

        con tan solo que sepan el numero pueden hacer todo eso

  4. Geneva J.

    HELP – Our Seattle Times newspaper had an article this week about Social Security scams — and that a very serious one was Redirecting our monthly Social Security automatic deposits > to a different Bank and a different Account Number!
    The article said that SSA says this happens thousands of times — But, the OIG (Office of Inspector General) says “It is also possible to block changes to the accounts.”
    It is NOT available in My SSA Account or on your website.
    ** Yes, I did call the SSA number 800-772-1213 but had to Hold for over 2 hours, finally gave up.

    This is frightening for many of us.
    I hope you will help us and provide the clear easy way to protect our monthly automatic deposits.

    Thank you.

  5. Linda J.

    As careful as I am I still have had money taken out if my bank account. I go to my bank, file a fraud report, get a new debit card, etc. I have received nearly all my money back.
    Credit cards have been hacked. What a mess that was. One credit card company called to ask if I had sent in a payment for $4000. I told them no. They immediately cancelled my account. I told them I was going to contact all my credit cards to inquire. All of them had received payments frim $3500 to $7000. They all offered to send new cards. I declined and cancelled all of my accounts.
    This was a night mare.

  6. Patricia B.

    Thank you so much for the reminder. I needed that. I get so emotional when I see someone being taken advantage of that I don’t think about my personal consequences. Thanks again!

  7. Bob S.

    We are receiving calls from people who say they are from Social Security or Medicare asking for information. All have had an accent. I have been very weary of giving out any information. Are these calls legit? Would SSO contact us asking anything?

    • Patricia

      I’m having the same issue. They ask for my SS# & I say if you’re truly Social Security, then you should have it right there in front of you. They usually hang up. I was told I need to call it in as a fraud alert but I have been lazy about it. My bank has been hacked into twice and my identity stolen twice all different times, with the cops showing up at my door once for a felony I didn’t commit. Luckily, my face didn’t match the actual person that was videotaped committing that crime. So, they let me go. But, fortunately I recognized the person, and they arrested her. So do be very careful about how your Social Security # is used and who your personal information is given to, because I honestly had no idea 🤷‍♀️ anyone was using me that way. I changed banks now and use my credit card as little as possible. Good luck to you! Patt 👱🏻‍♀️

    • S.D.

      Generally, we will only contact you if you have requested a call or have ongoing business with us.  We will never threaten you or promise a benefit in exchange for personal information or money. If you receive a suspicious call like this: 1) Hang up. 2) Do not provide personal information, money, or retail gift cards. 3) Report suspicious calls here. For more information, check out Protect Yourself from Social Security Scams. We hope this helps.  


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