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Identity Theft - ID Fraud

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.

How does ID theft occur?

Thieves may steal your identity in a variety of ways:

  • Stealing your wallet or purse;
  • Stealing your mail for bank statements, promotional offers, bills;
  • Digging out your trash for unshredded documents;
  • Internet Phishing to lure you to reveal your personal information;
  • Phone scam where they pretend to be from a legitimate business and ask for verification of your information;
  • Hacking a website's database where your date is stored;
  • Hacking your home computer;
  • Skimming your credit card number using a special device during a transaction.

How to find out if my identify has been stolen?

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.

What to do if I become an ID theft victim?

There are several urgent steps you must take if your identity information was stolen:

  • Place an initial fraud alert on your credit report with any of the three credit bureaus, who by law must notify the other two. The alert will remain valid for three months, preventing anyone from opening new accounts under your name without your formal permission.
  • Experian: 1-888-397-3742
    Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
    TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

  • If ID theft is confirmed, you can file a police report, which allows you to place an extended fraud alert valid for seven years. A police report also entitles you to more legal rights when you later deal with the aftermath of ID theft.
  • Cancel all stolen or lost credit cards, ATM cards, Debt Cards, etc.
  • Close all accounts that may have been tampered.
  • Change passwords to all online accounts that may have been affected.
  • Start disputing fraudulent charges and transactions.
  • Keep detailed logs of conversations with individual companies and all written confirmations.
  • File an FTC report at
  • Toll-free: 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338)
    TTY: 1-866-653-4261
    Identity Theft Clearinghouse
    Federal Trade Commission
    600 Pennsylvania Avenue
    NW, Washington, DC 20580.