Safe Computing

Identity Theft


Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the country, and often little more than a name or Social Security Number (SSN) is needed to steal someone's identity. During 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received nearly 1.4 million reports of identity thefts, up from 651,000 from the previous year.

Daily Activity Exposures

You might be surprised to learn how many of your daily activities expose you to this crime.

  • Do you use your SSN for identification?
  • Do you use an online banking service?
  • Do you receive credit card offers in the mail?
  • Do you use your computer to shop online?

If so, you could potentially become a victim of identity theft.

These actions place you at risk of being a victim of identity theft because each requires you to share personal information with others. This same personal information can be used by identity thieves to commit fraud. You can minimize your risk of being a victim of identity theft by managing your personal information properly.

How your identity can get stolen

There are many ways criminals can get your personal information. They can:

  • Rummage through trash (also called dumpster-diving)
  • Steal wallets and purses
  • Steal mail, including bank and credit card statements
  • Scam information from others by posing as a legitimate business person or government official


There are signs that you can watch for that might indicate that you have become a victim of identity theft. Most importantly, you should monitor the balances of your financial accounts. Check for unexplained charges or withdrawals. Other signs can be:

  • Failing to receive bills or other mail, signaling an address change by an identity thief
  • Receiving credit cards for which you did not apply
  • Denial of credit for no apparent reason
  • Receiving calls from debt collectors or companies about merchandise or services you did not buy


  • Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you've initiated the contact or are sure you know who you're dealing with.
  • Before disclosing any personal information, make sure you know why it is required and how it will be used.
  • Shred information that you no longer need that contains personally identifiable information and account numbers (credit card receipts, billing statements, pre-approved credit card offers).
  • Use a secure browser to guard the safety of your online transactions.


If you are a victim of identity theft:

  • Contact all the creditors involved.
  • Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
  • File a police report with the S&T Police Department.
  • Contact the FTC by visiting their website.
  • Keep a record of all your contacts.
  • Report your incident to IT Security.