Identity Theft How-to Hub

Find out what identity theft is and, most importantly, how to prevent it.

By
&
Aliza Vigderman
Gabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Aug 25, 2021
By Aliza Vigderman & Gabe Turner on Aug 25, 2021

Someone can steal your car. Someone can steal your watch. But can someone really steal your identity, an amorphous concept that you’ve been contemplating your entire life?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Identity theft means that someone is using your personally identifiable information, or PII, to open new bank accounts, commit crimes, or take out quick payday loans. That could seriously affect your credit score, which could make getting loans, housing, or jobs difficult. Both children and adults can be victims of identity theft, so this is an issue that affects everybody.

But how do you keep your PII from getting in the wrong hands?

Identity Theft How-to

Below, we’ve put together over 10 detailed guides on identity theft, from what the term “identity theft” really means to how to deal with having your identity stolen. From start to finish, we’ve got you covered with actionable, step-by-step guides. Read some or all of them to protect you and your family from identity theft.

Identity Theft Vocabulary

If you’re new to identity theft, you might want to learn what some key terms mean before you dive any deeper.

Credit Reports

Credit reports are incredibly important for detecting identity theft as soon as possible. If someone stole your identity, you could find some strange or unknown information in your credit report. But how do you get your credit report, and how do you correct errors?

To stay on top of your credit reports and scores easily, subscribe to a credit reporting service or one of the best identity theft protection services with credit monitoring.

FYI: You are entitled to a free credit report every year from AnnualCreditReport.com. Fill out a form to request it online.1

Preventing and Dealing With Identity Theft

The meat of our identity theft how-tos is how to prevent and deal with identity theft. Although it may seem stressful, the best defense is a good offense, so make sure to get identity theft protection, particularly services with dark web monitoring. The best plans also include identity theft restoration, which will give you support if your identity is stolen, plus fraud detection and fraud alerts.

Did You Know: According to our identity theft research, 32 percent of adults in the U.S. have had their identities stolen at some point. As of August 2021, the median fraud loss from identity theft was $378, according to the FTC.2

Identity theft may seem scary, but even if your identity is stolen, you can retrieve it and gain control of your personal information, especially if you have identity theft insurance and restoration services. Identity theft insurance can reimburse you for losses, while identity restoration services will match you with a restoration specialist to help you take back your PII. From disputing errors on your credit report to contacting your bank, it’s nice to have a helping hand, especially considering the stress of the situation.

Recap

That’s all we have to say about identity theft, but it’s an area we keep a close eye on. Check here for updates, and be sure to cover yourself and your family with identity theft protection. The truth is that even children can have their identity stolen, so it’s an issue that parents and non-parents alike must face.

If you want to protect yourself even further, read our VPN how-to hub and our antivirus how-to hub. There’s also our cyber insurance how-to hub for the most protection. When it comes to digital security, we’ve got you covered.

If we didn’t answer your identity theft-related question, read our frequently asked questions section below. We’ve heard from our readers, and we’ve got answers.

FAQs

We’ve gotten these questions more times than we can count, so we’ve answered them below.

  • What do you do if you’re a victim of identity theft?

    Follow these steps if you’re a victim of identity theft:

    1. Submit a claim to your identity theft insurer, assuming you have one.
    2. File an identity theft with the FTC by calling 877-3820-4357.
    3. Contact any companies that were involved in the fraud, including financial institutions.
    4. Contact the three major credit reporting bureaus to get copies of your credit reports. Check them for errors and dispute the errors if necessary.
  • What are the four types of identity theft?

    There are more than four types of identity theft, but here are four of them:

    • Senior identity theft
    • Medical identity theft
    • Business identity theft
    • Child identity theft
  • How do you check to see if someone stole your identity?

    Follow these steps to see if someone stole your identity:

    1. Track your bills to see if you are missing any that you should receive regularly, or if you are getting any new bills you didn’t sign up for.
    2. Check your bank account statements for unfamiliar purchases.
    3. Check your credit reports for errors or unknown information.
    4. Use identity theft protection to scan multiple areas for your personally identifiable information automatically, including sex offender registries and USPS change-of-address requests.
  • What are the first signs of identity theft?

    These are the first signs of identity theft:

    • Notices from the IRS
    • Bank account withdrawals, bills, and calls on debts you don’t remember authorizing
    • Unfamiliar accounts on your credit report
Citations
  1. Annual Credit Report. (2021). 3 steps to your free credit reports.
    annualcreditreport.com/requestReport/landingPage.action

  2. Tableau Public. (2021). FTC COVID-19 and Stimulus Reports.
    public.tableau.com/app/profile/federal.trade.commission/viz/COVID-19andStimulusReports/Map