Vermonters, there are steps you can take right now to protect your identity. Here are some helpful tips from the Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) along with commonly asked questions about identity theft.
What can I do, right now, to protect my identity?
The best way to know that no one is using your personal information is to monitor your credit. CAP recommends that Vermonters review their credit reports now, and regularly, to make sure that no unauthorized accounts are being reported.
You can get a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies annually, online, at www.annualcreditreport.com.
If you find anything that should not be there, be sure to save a copy of the report. Then, contact the credit reporting agency to dispute all inaccurate items and close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
What can I do, right now, to protect my credit?
It is important to note that whether you are a victim of identity theft or not, you can place a security freeze on your credit for free. Placing a fraud alert and/or credit freeze on your credit can help to protect from fraudulent accounts being opened with your Social Security number.
- A credit freeze is a free tool that lets you restrict access to your credit report, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. A credit freeze does not affect your credit score—it just protects your credit. Under a freeze, you can still access your free annual credit report, and it does not affect your ability to apply for a job, rent an apartment, or buy insurance. However, if you are opening a new account, you will need to lift the freeze temporarily. Lifting the freeze is free.
- A credit fraud alert is a free tool that makes it more difficult for identity theft and/or fraud to occur. According to the FTC, when you have a fraud alert in place, a business must verify your identity before it issues credit. Once you place the alert, it will be active for one year. To place a credit fraud alert, contact one credit bureau and ask to place the alert. That credit bureau will then contact the other two bureaus.
Contact the national credit bureaus to request fraud alerts, credit freezes (also known as security freezes), and opt-outs from pre‑screened credit offers.
What is identity theft?
A data breach does not necessarily mean you are a victim of identity theft. A breach means you are now susceptible to identity theft.
Identity theft is the unauthorized use of another person’s personal information to obtain credit, goods, services, money, or property, and it’s a crime!
Identity theft may involve fraudulent use of credit cards or bank account information. In some cases, your Social Security number and other personal information may be used to fraudulently obtain driver’s licenses, lines of credit, loans, or other consumer accounts.
I think I am a victim of identity theft. What steps should I take?
According to the FTC, if you see one of the warning signs of identity theft, act quickly. Taking these steps will help you limit the damage. IdentityTheft.gov will guide you through each step.
- Call the companies where you know fraud occurred.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and get copies of your report.
- Report identity theft to the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov.
- File a report with your local police department.
If you need assistance or have questions along the way, contact CAP by calling 800-649-2424 or emailing AGO.CAP@vermont.gov