Check Your Records

The longer an identity thief can use your personal information without your knowledge, the more damage he or she can do.

Part of managing your money means keeping a watchful eye on all your financial transactions, including bank statements, credit card statements, and investment account statements. Keep all your receipts and check them against your statements. They should match.

If you're being charged on your existing accounts for purchases you never made, there's good reason to suspect someone else is using your credit or debit card. Report it immediately to your card issuer, who should cancel the card and issue a new one.

Similarly, if you're receiving phone calls asking for payment for things you never purchased, alert the police and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

If you've had a good credit history and are suddenly denied credit, ask the merchant who turned you down which credit reporting agency provided your credit report. Immediately request a copy of that report. It should be free because fraud may be involved. You may discover unpaid charges have piled up on accounts in your name that you never applied for and for which you've never received a bill. Alert the agency immediately and file a police report.

Watching out for identity theft is one good reason to request the free copies of your credit reports to which you're entitled each year in addition to those you can get when you suspect fraud. Go to and follow the directions. These reports really are free, and you're not required to sign up for any credit tracking services to receive them.
Other credit reporting sites may advertise free credit reports but require you to sign up for services to receive the report. Use only