Criminal Identity Theft

What is criminal identity theft? Find out what to do if someone uses your personal information to commit a crime.

Step 1:Recognize

Red Flags of Criminal Identity Theft

There are several red flags that may indicate that someone is committing criminal identity theft against you, such as:

  • You receive phone calls from debt collectors indicating that you owe money to companies you don’t recall doing business with.
  • Your credit report contains inaccuracies, such as accounts or addresses you do not recognize.
  • You are contacted by law enforcement about a crime you have not committed.

Step 2:Immediate Actions

If you think you are the victim of criminal identity theft, it is important to take action right away to protect yourself and your finances. Here are some steps to take if you think you have been scammed:

  • Make copies of everything before sending originals to anyone and keep a log of all documentation, correspondence and conversations related to your case.
  • Visit IdentityTheft.gov from the Federal Trade Commission to file a report and create a personalized plan for recovery.
  • Speak to an Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) expert advisor toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) during their normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST) for one-on-one assistance.
  • Consider contacting an attorney if:
    • you find that there is a warrant out for your arrest
    • you have been denied housing, employment or a loan because of a criminal record
    • you have been placed on the sex offender registry for a crime you did not commit
    • you are being deported or denied citizenship because of a crime you did not commit
  • If you are being contacted by law enforcement about a crime you did not commit, do not speak to them without an attorney present.
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus and review your credit reports for any fraudulent activity. Request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit report.
  • If your driver’s license has been suspended or revoked because of a crime you did not commit, contact the DMV.

Step 3:Report

Reporting any type of cybercrime, including criminal identity theft, is imperative to help others avoid being scammed. As a society, the more people that report online scams and fraud, the more national reporting data that is collected, and the better chance law enforcement has to catch the criminals and decrease cybercrime.

Step 4:Recover

  • Keep your driver’s license secure at all times.
  • Shred all documents that include your Social Security number or other personal information before discarding them.
  • Implement Multi Factor Authentication (MFA): Passwords are generally easy for scammers to crack, and even if you use strong passphrases, there’s still the possibility that a cybercriminal can obtain your passphrase in a data breach. Implementing MFA is a great way to maximize your security and ensure that you are the only one who can gain access to your accounts. MFA should be implemented on all accounts where it is available. Check your account’s security settings to see if it is something you can set up.
  • Update Your Privacy Settings: Privacy settings allow you to control your personal information (name, address, phone number, date of birth, financial details, photos or videos, etc) and how that information is used. Review your privacy settings on all of your accounts including your social media accounts. Consider restricting who can see your friends list, contacts, photos and posts.

Take 5 Steps for Better Online Security

In addition, it’s important to strengthen your online security to help avoid all types of online scams. Take action to improve your digital posture by following these steps:

  1. Implement Multi Factor Authentication (MFA): Passwords are generally easy for scammers to crack, and even if you use strong passphrases, there’s still the possibility that a cybercriminal can obtain your passphrase in a data breach. Implementing MFA is a great way to maximize your security and ensure that you are the only one who can gain access to your accounts. MFA should be implemented on all accounts where it is available. Check your account’s security settings to see if it is something you can set up.
  2. Update Your Privacy Settings: Privacy settings allow you to control your personal information (name, address, phone number, date of birth, financial details, photos or videos, etc) and how that information is used. Review your privacy settings on all of your accounts including your social media accounts. Consider restricting who can see your friends list, contacts, photos and posts.
  3. Activate Automatic Updates: Automatic updates are a set of changes to an app, software or operating system that are automatically pushed by the developer to fix or improve it. Oftentimes, cybercriminals take advantage of security flaws to plant malicious software on your devices. By activating automatic updates, you will automatically patch security vulnerabilities to protect your data.
  4. Use a Password Manager or Create Strong Passphrases: A password manager is a software tool that securely stores all of your login credentials in one place, allowing you to create and manage strong, unique passwords for all of your accounts. If you are unable to afford a password manager, use strong passphrases. A passphrase is a combination of random words or a sentence that is much longer and more complex than a typical password. Using a passphrase instead of a password makes it much harder for hackers to guess or brute-force their way into your accounts.
  5. Learn the Elements of a Phishing Attempt: Familiarize yourself with the elements of a phishing email. Phishing emails tend to include a sense of urgency and multiple grammar and spelling errors. If they are asking you to reveal personal information, be suspicious. If you get a strange email, try contacting the company another way to confirm they sent that email. If the email is suspicious, mark it as spam.

TestimonialHear from Other Victims

Without Fightcybercrime.org, I don't know if I would have been able to react as quickly to protect my personal information.
Mary - Indianapolis, IN

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