Welcome to Consumer Reports Advocacy

For 85 years CR has worked for laws and policies that put consumers first. Learn more about CR’s work with policymakers, companies, and consumers to help build a fair and just marketplace at TrustCR.org

Identity Theft: Action and Prevention for Consumers

Identity Theft: Action and Prevention for

targeted by identity thieves usually do not know that they have been victims
until the hijackers fail to pay the bills or repay the loans, and collection
agencies begin dunning the consumers for payment of accounts they didn’t even
know they had.

— The Federal
Trade Commission

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve has described identity theft as “one
of the fastest growing crimes in the United States.”

What to do if it
happens to you:

If you have been a
victim of identity theft, there are government and nonprofit resources to help

Reduce your chances of becoming a future victim of identity theft:

To reduce your chances
of becoming an identity theft victim, safeguard your personal information such
as your Social Security number and your drivers license number. Don’t print
your drivers license number on your checks or carry your Social Security number
in your wallet. Shred mail you receive that contains your Social Security number,
credit account numbers, or other personal information. Order copies of your
credit report every year, and report in writing any errors you find. Cancel
credit cards that you don’t use regularly, don’t carry more cards than necessary,
never write your PIN on your card or carry it in your wallet or purse, get off
junk mailing lists, opt out of prescreened credit card offers and use a locked
mail box. Don’t give out personal information unless you are sure who you are
dealing with, and then only if necessary. Ask your employer how it safeguards
the personal information in your employee records.

For a more complete
list of things you can do to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of identity
theft, see:
, and http://www.bos.frb.org/consumer/identity/idtheft.pdf

What your legislators
can do to slow down identity theft:

Congress and our state
lawmakers can make it harder for identity thieves to steal our good names. Consumers
Union recommends that Congress and every state legislature enact a series of
measures to reduce our exposure as consumers to identity theft. These measures
include a right to freeze your credit report so that no one can get access to
it to grant credit without your permission, an obligation on credit grantors
to investigate a credit applicant when you have placed a fraud alert on your
credit file, a right to file a police report in the consumer’s home jurisdiction,
restrictions on the use of Social Security numbers as identifying numbers for
insurance, employee ID, and similar purposes, notice to consumers when the number
of inquires to the credit file rises in a short period of time, and better rights
to stop debt collectors from pursuing consumers for debts incurred by an identity
thief. For a more complete list of recommended legislative action items, see

Seek action from
your state and federal lawmakers:

To send a letter to
your state legislators, Congressional Representatives, and Senators asking for
new law changes to reduce the risk of identity theft and to improve consumer
protection for identity theft victims, click

Other resources:

Comprehensive consumer

Theft: When Bad Things Happen to Your Good Name

Information on your
right to dispute a charge on your credit card:


To stop prescreened
credit card offers, call toll free: 888-567-8688

To contact the credit
reporting agencies to report a fraud or order a copy of your credit report click

To get off many lists
for marketing mail, calls and email:



Mailing address to get off the lists for mail and calls: click

For information on the
federal “Do Not Call” list to avoid telemarketer calls, which is being
see: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/donotcall/index.html