Fact Sheet: Identity Theft

The Federal Trade Commission estimates as many as 9 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year, the fastest growing crime in the United States. Identity theft occurs when a thief obtains personal and/or financial information about you and then uses it without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Thieves steal your identity and money, ruining your credit and reputation! Though less likely to report fraud, adults over the age of 60 account for 10% of identity theft complaints, mostly in the area of credit card fraud.

How thieves obtain your personal information:

How thieves commit identity theft:

Protect Yourself

Unfortunately, more than 50% of victims did not know their identity had been stolen until the damage had already been done—unverified accounts on a credit report, unauthorized charges on a credit card, or even a telephone call from a debt collector. Identity theft victims then spend countless hours and money to rectify the damage done to their good name and credit. An FTC report found that some victims were still dealing with the crime two years later! Identity thieves also cost businesses and financial institutions, with fraudulent purchases of goods and services, more than $33 billion/year.

Prevention tips:

Resources:

Credit Security Freeze

Any consumer may place a ―security freeze,‖ also known as a ―file freeze,‖ on his or her credit report by making a request to each credit reporting agency. A security freeze helps provide you with protection from identity theft because your credit bureau file cannot be shared with potential new creditors. Most businesses check a consumer’s credit history before opening any new credit ac-counts. With your security freeze in place, even someone with your name and Social Security number should not be able to get credit in your name.

In Nevada, a security freeze is free to people who are 65 years of age and older. For all others placing a freeze, the cost averages $10.00 per agency. The request must provide the credit reporting agency with sufficient identification information to establish the identity of the consumer. According to the FTC, Nevada ranks 3rd in the United States for identity theft complaints.

For more information or to place a credit security freeze, contact the three national credit reporting agencies by telephone, mail or online. Also, the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension can mail or email the information packet, including sample letters, by contacting (702) 257-5588.

Credit Freeze versus Fraud Alert

A credit freeze and a fraud alert are quite different. A freeze generally prohibits all access to your credit report, while an alert allows creditors to gain access as long as they take the necessary steps to verify your identity. Also, a fraud alert is intended for those individuals who have been a victim of identity theft and expires without notice while a credit freeze is available to anyone per their state laws and can only be suspended or terminated by you.

If you think you have been a victim of identity theft: