Frauds & Scams, Privacy & Identity

Protect Yourself from Identity Thieves

February 8, 2024 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: February 8, 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. Liz

    My local Social Security Office is so rude. They demanded my personal information and hung up on me several times. It’s so difficult accessing benefits when you have to interact with people who purposely confuse you. The yelling was unnecessary. I’ve experienced delays with my application. I worry about working with them in the final steps of my claim. I hope they aren’t practicing identity theft.

    • Sue

      We’re sorry about your experience, Liz. When you call Social Security, we ask questions to verify your identity to make sure we disclose information to the right person. This is for your protection. We encourage you to continue to work with your local Social Security office. You can ask to speak with a supervisor on your next call or visit. To check the status of your application, you can use your personal my Social Security account or our automated telephone services that are available 24 hours a day. Call us at 1-800-772-1213 and, at the prompt, respond “application status.” For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions. We hope this is resolved soon.

  2. StarrLa'diamond L.

    If you received information about your information on the black web. What are you to do.

  3. Christopher s.

    I been having problem with people getting on the website trying to get a social security number been getting my social security check they have all the post office miss up I been having this problem since I been out of prison I need help I knew my social security check are pending there some how they getting Money from me.

    • Sue

      We’re sorry to hear about your situation, Christopher. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We encourage you to contact your local Social Security office or call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Wait times to speak to a representative are typically shorter Wednesdays through Fridays or later in the day. We hope this is resolved soon. 

  4. azire

    Notice there’s no mention of any penalties or payment of costs of identity theft damage/injuries for any corporation or gov’t agency whose security isn’t up to date or much good–if they get hacked/security breached and your confidential data is hacked. Or that you can’t choose to have your new driver’s license or ID card sent by certified mail or priority or over night Fedex and so it’s just too bad if your new license is lost by the USPS and you can’t even try to track it. I’m tired of hearing how it’s my responsibility to protect my data, when I have so little control over how my “data” is handled by corporations, gov’t agencies, etc, and too many of them are clearly not taking adequate precautions

  5. Fattima

    If I feel robbed My Social Security n
    Number and I filed a complaint with the Social Security Administration. Is it possible to extract a new security number other than the stolen one? I think this is the solution and I hope you can answer it.

    • Sue

      Hi, Fattima. Thanks for reading our blog and for your question. There are only a few circumstances in which we would assign a different Social Security number. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions. If you suspect fraud, check out our fraud prevention and reporting webpage. We hope this helps. 

  6. Sherena H.


  7. MAS

    2023 My ID and all my personal information was hacked through a Benefit vendor. As soon as I was informed I placed reports including DMV State Attorney etc.,2 months later I received a traffic violation and that helped me to find that there is a person with same name and surname, the difference was our middle name, I use mine ALWAYS also I double check my accounts monthly. Btw person was not the hacker.

  8. Beatrice M.

    I have been a victim of scheduled fraud and abuse from all situations especially at work. Stollen ID, SSN, Passport, Driver’s license and education certificates and used last pass to break into my computer and coded all my pictures, emails and documents etc. I was even threatened to shut my fucking mouth or else they will shut it up forever for me. The person used the name Donald Wayne, Kevin,Thompson , Stanley Thompson, under Core Market Options Inc. They collected credit in my name, etc . Even after reporting, these guys still have an upper hand and I don’t know how especially when law is there to protect. I am very helpless.

  9. Barb T.

    Filing that police report is very important. Any time someone uses your information (credit card) to buy something they are in fact stealing from you. It is theft.

  10. Bill F.

    One very important thing to do that surprisingly wasn’t mentioned in the blog is to place a freeze on your file at all three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian).


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