What is Identity Theft

Identity theft is a federal crime.  It occurs when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge or permission for financial or other gain.


Typical identity theft involves a thief stealing your personal information to pose as you in some way.  A newer and growing variety is called synthetic identity theft.  In synthetic identity theft, your personal information is combined with fake data to create a brand new, bogus identity.  A thief may combine your social security number with a different name or other fake credentials   Synthetic identity theft can be harder to detect, which can lead to more damage.


There are steps you can take to lower your risks from identity theft.  The following are resources to help you protect yourself.


Protect yourself

Detect warning signs

Correct problems that arise if your identity is stolen



The following are the old tried and true ways thieves will attempt to steal your identity-


Mail theft

  • Avoid placing your outgoing mail in your mailbox. Take it to the post office or place in a postal mailbox.


Dumpster Diving

  • Shred unwanted documents containing personal information and all unsolicited credit card or loan offers.
  • Invest in a high quality cross-cut shredder. Thieves have figured out how to piece together papers shredded into horizontal strips.


Shoulder Surfing

“Shoulder surfers” observe your actions or eavesdrop to steal personal information.  They look over your shoulder or stand close by and may use a camera phone to record you.

  • Shield keypads with your hand or body before entering PINs, passwords, or card numbers.
  • Avoid sharing personal information over the phone in public. If you must, use a low voice and shield your mouth.


Purse or Wallet snatching

  • Minimize what you carry in your wallet, especially payment cards. Only take the most essential card you will need on vacation.
  • Never carry your Social Security Card, unless absolutely necessary.
  • Don’t carry PINs or passwords with you; memorize them or keep them safely locked up at home.