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Identity Theft

Identity theft is a serious crime. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years — and their hard-earned money — cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record.

By understanding what identity theft is and how it occurs, you can help protect yourself from becoming a victim. If you're already a victim of identity theft, don't worry. It's never too late to take action.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity Theft refers to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data, such as their name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information, in a way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.

Common Identity Theft Complaints

  • Payments card fraud
  • Unauthorized phone or utility services
  • Bank fraud
  • Fraudulent loans
  • Government documents or benefits

Popular Identity Theft Scams

  • Phony sweepstakes or counterfeit charities
  • Work-at-home offers promising easy money
  • Phony payment card, credit protection, or credit repair offers
  • Pyramid Schemes (Where early "investors" get paid off with other people's money)
  • Cut rate travel or discount magazine offers
  • Scholarship scams

How Criminals Get Your Personal Information

  • Stealing wallets and purses containing your identification and credit and bank cards
  • Stealing your mail, including your bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks, and tax information
  • Completing a "change of address form" to divert your mail to another location
  • Rummaging through your trash, or the trash of businesses, for personal data in a practice known as "dumpster diving"
  • Fraudulently obtaining your credit report by posing as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a legitimate need for, and legal right to, the information
  • Finding your personal information in your home
  • Using personal information you share on the internet
  • Using e-mail scam techniques such as "Phishing" by posing as legitimate companies or government agencies you do business with
  • Obtaining your information from the work place in a practice known as "business record theft," by stealing files out of offices where you're a customer, employee, patient or student; bribing an employee who has access to your files; or "hacking" into electronic files

How Criminals Use Your Stolen Information

  • Contacting your credit card issuer and, pretending to be you, asking to change the mailing address on the credit card account. The imposter then runs up charges on your account. Because the bills are being sent to the new address, it may take some time before you realize there's a problem.
  • Requesting additional credit/debit cards, and new PIN to facilitate cash advance fraud.
  • Opening a new credit card account, using your name, date of birth and SSN, but the thief's own mailing address. When they use the credit card and don't pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report.
  • Utilizing credit cards until 'open to buy' is exhausted, and fails to make payments causing delinquencies to be reported to credit bureaus.
  • Establishing phone or wireless service in your name.
  • Opening a bank account in your name and writing non-sufficient funds (NSF) checks on that account.
  • Filing for bankruptcy using your name to avoid paying debts incurred in your name or to avoid eviction.
  • Counterfeiting checks or debit cards to drain your bank account.
  • Purchasing automobiles, boats etc. through loans obtained using your personal information.
  • Giving your name to the police during an arrest. If they're released from police custody, but don't show up for their court date, an arrest warrant is issued in your name.

Identity Theft Assistance Center

MasterCard is a proud member of the Identity Theft Corporation, which operates the Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC). ITAC is a cooperative initiative of the financial services industry to address and reduce the human and economic consequences of identity theft. ITAC provides a free victim assistance service, and partners with law enforcement to help find and prosecute identity theft criminals. Visit ITAC
Selection of benefits on your card may vary by card issuer. Please refer to your issuing financial institution for more details.