Identity Theft


Learn more about identity theft: what it is and how to avoid, detect, and handle it.

What is identity theft?

It is a crime where a thief steals your personal information to commit fraud. The thief can use this information to fraudulently apply for credit, file taxes, or obtain medical services in your name. These acts can damage your credit status, and cost you time and money to restore your good name.

Avoiding identity theft

  1. Proactively freeze your credit to block credit inquires by contacting each of the major credit reporting bureaus. Learn more from How to place or lift a freeze on your credit report (from
  2. Do not respond to unsolicited requests for personal information by phone, mail, or online.
  3. Enable two-step authentication (also referred to as two-factor authentication (2FA)) for all online accounts that offer it.
    • Steps to turn on two-factor authentication for most services may be found through the 2FA Directory
  4. Use a password manager to generate strong and unique passwords for each of your online accounts.
  5. On each of the computers you use, apply software updates regularly, encrypt, and install malware protection software. For university work, use a managed computer or device.
  6. Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired cards to prevent dumpster divers from obtaining your personal information.
  7. Collect your mail promptly. Request to put your mail on hold when you are on vacation.
  8. Be aware that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not initiate contact with a taxpayer by email, nor any type of electronic communication, such as SMS text messages or social media channels, to request personal or financial information.

Detecting identity theft

  1. Review the transactions in your monthly financial statements. Watch for any unauthorized transactions.
  2. Review your credit report annually. A free annual credit report can be requested at
  3. Receiving an IRS notice via the U.S. Postal Service that states:
    1. More than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number (SSN).
    2. You owe additional tax, had a tax refund offset, or have collection actions against you for a year and you did not file a tax return.
    3. You received wages from an employer unknown to you.

Handling identity theft

  1. File a complaint and create recovery plan with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
    1. Hotline: 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338)
  2. Contact one of the three major credit agencies to place a fraud alert on your credit records:
    1. Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
    2. Experian: 1-888-397-3742
    3. TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
  3. Contact your financial institutions and close any accounts opened without your permission or tampered with.
  4. If your SSN is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, take the following additional steps:
    1. If you received an IRS notice, independently verify the legitimacy and contact information before responding.
    2. Complete the Identity Theft Affidavit, IRS Form 14039, and mail or fax it according to the instructions.
    3. Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.

Other Resources

Several federal government agencies and the major credit bureaus provide information and guidance on identity theft.

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Article ID: 140577
Mon 7/10/23 10:05 AM
Wed 1/10/24 12:38 PM

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