Identity theft is a fast-growing crime in the U.S. Each year as many as 9 million Americans have their personal information stolen. Many victims not only suffer significant financial losses, but have to spend months or even years to restore their good names. Immigrants, especially new foreign students, must pay special attention to this matter particularly because they lack the knowledge and awareness necessary to protect themselves.
ID thieves may steal your social security number, credit card number, driver's license number, etc. to commit fraud. They may open up new accounts, spend with your existing credit cards, set up utilities, apply for jobs, or even give out your information when they are being arrested.
Thieves may steal your identity in a variety of ways:
If you notice strange accounts on your credit report that you didn't open, you see unfamiliar charges to your credit cards, you receive bills from unknown sources, or you get inquiries about an apartment you never rented or a job you never held, you need to take the warning signs seriously and start the investigation immediately. The earlier you act, the less damage you will incur. For this reason alone, it is a good idea to check your credit report regularly and closely monitor your monthly statements.
There are several urgent steps you must take if your identity information was stolen:
Toll-free: 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338)
Identity Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue
NW, Washington, DC 20580.