Identity theft: What to do when your identity has been stolen

older man wearing orange and red shirt on desktop computer

Learn about identity theft, what to do, and how to protect yourself.

“I am in trouble, and I need your help.” That is a statement made by a client of mine who was a victim of identity theft.

When I asked about what happened, he stated that an unknown person called him and claimed to be a government employee and wanted to get my client’s bank account information. When my client refused to give him bank account information, the person replied by giving my client his personal information to lure him to believe the person on the phone, but still my client refused.

Earlier that week, my client had gone online and entered his personal information in response to an unverified job opening, and this is how they originally got his information.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is the intentional use of someone’s personal information to gain access to financial or other services; consequently, the person with the stolen ID can be held responsible for damages. With the amount of personal information on the internet and the increased number of hacked financial institutes, it wise to keep your information safe to avoid trouble.

How to avoid identity theft

  • Never give your personal information to unfamiliar individuals/entities in person/over the phone/via email or online.
  • Shred any documents that have your personal information before throwing them in the trash.
  • Review your bank and credit card statements for accuracy and dispute unfamiliar charges immediately.
  • Never carry your social security card in public and never share your social security number unless necessary.
  • Never leave your mail in the mailbox for days; call your bank or utility company if your bills are late.
  • Report stolen IDs and credit cards immediately.
  • Keep your documents safe at home and never in an unattended place nor in your car.
  • Get an annual free credit report to check for unauthorized activities.

How to report identity theft

In the event of stolen identity take action immediately and don’t wait!

  • Use to help you take the proper recovery steps.
  • Report it to the local police and obtain a police report.
  • Report it to one of the three credit offices (EquifaxExperian, or TransUnion) to protect your credit.
  • Report and dispute loans or credit card charges that are not yours.

The event can be overwhelming to you, but do not let it be. Take the proper steps to protect your identity and the appropriate steps to report any suspicious activities to limit the damage.

Opinions expressed and advice given in USAHello’s Voices and Hello blogs are the writers’ own. USAHello offers impartial information and online courses to help newcomers in the USA.