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Financial Literacy Cougar Money Matters

Fraud and Identity Theft

Fraud is deliberate deception, and identity theft is when a person illegally uses identifying information of another person, usually to make a financial gain or obtain assets. Oftentimes, those who partake in identity theft and fraud open credit cards, take out loans, and even get in to your already existing savings or checking account. It can be very difficult and time consuming to resolve this issue and get back your credit, sometimes, it can take months or even years to clear your name.

Most Common Types of Identity Theft/Fraud

  1. Credit Card Fraud: An individual uses someone else’s credit card number for unauthorized purchases
  2. Employment or Tax-Related Fraud: When someone uses another person’s Social Security number and other identifying information to gain employment or file a tax return
  3. Phone or Utilities Fraud: A wireless phone or utilities account is opened using another person’s information
  4. Bank Fraud: The criminal uses another individuals personal information to open a new account in the victim’s name, or to take over an existing account that the victim already had
  5. Loan or Lease Fraud: Stolen personal information is used to obtain a loan or lease
  6. Government Documents or Benefits Fraud: Stolen personal information is used to obtain government benefits

Identity Theft Recovery Steps

  • If you notice any unusual charges on your account, contact your financial institution immediately to close or freeze your accounts
  • Review your credit report to look for any accounts that you may not recognize
  • File a report with the federal trade commission, as part of this process, you will receive a recovery plan and other forms that can be used to dispute fraudulent charges, their official website is
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, this notifies any institution that may pull your credit report that your identity may be stolen

For more information on what to do if you become a victim of Identity Theft, check out this helpful video below;

How To Help Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Although there is no real way to tell if you will ever become a victim of identity theft or not, using the following precautions may help keep your information safe

  • Review banking statements monthly, look for any unusual or unrecognized activity on your account
  • Have paychecks directly deposited into your account
  • If possible, avoid identifying personal information via phone or internet
  • Do not leave mail in an unprotected mailbox
  • Shred personal documents/billing statements before recycling or throwing them out
  • Beware of unusual activity around you when using an ATM
  • Don’t carry your Social Security card with you
  • In 2017, around 14.2 million credit card numbers were exposed due to hackers 
  • In 2017, about 158 million Social Security numbers were exposed due to online data breaches 
  • Of those who reported fraud in 2017, there was a total of about $905 million lost
  • During a 2017 holiday season, 1 out of every 85 transactions was a fraudulent attempt 


Helpful Tips
  • Only make online purchases from secure websites
  • Do not store debit/credit card or personal information on websites
  • Do not leave your debit or credit card laying around 
  • Make sure to keep important identifying documents such as your passport, Social Security card, and birth certificate in a secure place