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Minimizing your risk and what to do if you are a victim

Identity theft occurs when someone takes pieces of information about you and commits fraud or theft. This is a violation of Wisconsin state law. Someone may be able to obtain your personal information from everyday transactions like writing a check or using your credit card. These transactions usually require that you share personal information, like your address and telephone number, bank and credit card numbers, as well as your social security card number.

While you may be unable to prevent an unscrupulous person from stealing this information, you can minimize your risk by managing your personal information wisely.

How does identity theft happen? 

Your wallet or purse, containing your personal identification and credit cards, is stolen. A thief may use your credit card quickly to make purchases or apply for a new credit card by using your personal information.

  • Credit card and bank statements, pre-approved credit offers, and/or tax information are stolen from you.
  • A phone or wireless service is opened in your name
  • Personal information you share on the internet is used
  • Someone checks your trash and finds personal information

Avoiding Credit Card and Charge Card Fraud

  • Think twice before giving someone personal information about yourself.
  • Ask how they are going to use it and the reason why they need it. If the reasoning does not sound legitimate, do not give out the information.
  • Do not give out information over the telephone unless you initiated contact or you know the person.
  • Sign your credit card right away or don’t sign it at all. Instead, write “CID” on the back. This stands for “check ID.” This forces retailers to match your face and the name on the credit card with another ID, such as your driver’s license.
  • Be careful with your social security number. Do not carry it in your wallet or purse.

What if I am a victim of identity theft? 

If you are the victim of Identity theft, take the following five steps as soon as possible, and keep a record of the details of your conversations and copies of all your correspondence.

1) Place a fraud alert on your credit report, and review your credit reports.

  • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 or online at
  • Experian: 1-800-397-3742 or online at
  • Transunion:1-800-680-7289 or online at

2) Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Speak to someone in the security or fraud department for each company and follow up in writing, and include copies (not originals) of supporting documents.

3) File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

  • You can file a complaint with the FTC by using their online complaint form.
  • Call the FTC’s Identify Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338)
  • Write: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20580

4) File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the theft took place. Obtain a copy of the police report. It can help you deal with creditors who need proof of the crime. Provide all records relating to fraudulent accounts or purchases in your case. This will help the police investigate this crime. You may contact the University Police at 577-9045 or 839-4972 to report a theft. If a theft is in progress or a suspect is nearby, please call 911, 9-911 on a campus phone.

5) Contact the Social Security Administration to report a stolen card. The fraudulent use of a stolen Social Security card number can be the most damaging part of a theft case. If your card or number is stolen, contact the Social Security Administration immediately to report it. You may contact this agency at 1-800-772-1213 or go to

Phishing and How to Avoid Being Lured In

Phishing is the act of attempting to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as credit card numbers or bank account numbers and passwords, by masquerading as a trustworthy person or business. These attempts are usually sent by electronic message, such as an email or instant message. These messages look harmless and may appear to be a legitimate attempt to alert you to a problem with your account Legitimate businesses will not ask for this information by use of email or instant message. Remember, they should already have your accounts and passwords. You can avoid being lured in by taking the following precautions.

  • Be leary of alarming statements that urge you to act immediately.
  • Resist requests for usernames, passwords, account numbers and other identifying numbers.
  • Do not provide personal information by completing a form in an email message. Instead, contact only your legitimate institutions by phone or in person. Phishing may also occur by telephone.
  • Do not give any personal information such as, credit card numbers, social security numbers or bank account numbers to anyone over the phone, especially if you have not initiated the contact.