How to avoid a scam and what to do if your identity is stolen

First things first…

Know to avoid a scam

Block unwanted calls and text messages.

Take steps to block unwanted calls and to filter unwanted text messages.

Don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect.

Legitimate organizations won’t call, email, or text to ask your personal information, like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers.

If you get an email or text message from a company you do business with and you think it’s real, it’s still best not to click on any links.

Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy. Or look up their phone number.

Don’t call a number they gave you or the number from your caller ID.

Resist the pressure to act immediately.

Legitimate businesses will give you time to make a decision. Anyone who pressures you to pay or give them your personal information is a scammer.

Know how scammers tell you to pay.

Never pay someone who insists you pay with a gift card or by using a money transfer service. And never deposit a check an send money back to someone.

Stop and talk to someone you trust.

Before you do anything else, tell someone – a friend, a family member, a neighbor – what happened. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam.

The best way to avoid a scam is to recognize the most common traits nearly every same has.

Here are 4 of the most common traits you’ll come across.

1. Scammers PRETEND to be from an organization you know.

Scammers often pretend to be contacting you on behalf of the government. They might use a real name, like the Social Security Administration, the IRS, of Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official.

Some pretend to be from a business you know, like a utility company,  a tech company, or even a charity asking for donations.

They use technology to change the phone number that appears on your caller ID. So the name and number you see might not be real.

2. Scammers say there’s a PROBLEM or a PRIZE.

They might say you’re in trouble with the government. Or you owe money. Or someone in your family ha an emergency. Or that there’s a virus on your computer.

Some scammers say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you need to verify some information.

Others will lie and say you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but have to pay a fee to get it.

3. Scammers PRESSURE you to act immediately.

Scammers want you to act before you have time to think. If you’re on the phone, they might tell you not to hang up so you can’t check out their story.

They might threaten to arrest you, sue you, take away your driver’s or business license, or deport you. They might say your computer is about to be corrupted.

4. Scammers tell you to PAY in a specific way.

They often insist that you pay by sending money through a money transfer company or by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back. Some will send you a check (that will later turn out to be fake), tell you to deposit it, and then send them money.

What to know, what to do…

What to do when your identity has been stolen

Is someone using your personal or financial information to make purchaes, get benefits, file taxes, or commit fraud?

That’s identity theft.

Step 1: Call the companies where you know fraud occurred.

Call the fraud department. Explain that someone stole your identity. Ask them to close or freeze the accounts. Then, no one can add new cahrges unless you agree.

Change logins, passwords, and PINs for your accounts.

Step 2: Place a fraud alert and get your credit reports.

To place a free fraud alert, contact one of the three credit bureaus. That company must tell the other two.

    888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)

Get updates at

Get your free credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Go to or call 1-877-322-8228

Review your reports. Make not of any account or transaction you don’t recognize. This will help you report the theft to the FTC and, if needed, the police.

Step 3: Report identity theft to the FTC

Report the identity theft to all your financial institutions.

Go to and include as many details as possible.

Based on the information you enter, will create your Identity Theft Report and recovery plan.

Visit to report identity theft and get a personal recovery plan.

The site provides detailed advice to help you fix problems caused by identity theft, along with the ability to:

  • get a personal recovery plan that walk you through each step
  • update your plan and track your progress
  • print pre-filled letters and forms to send to credit bureaus, businesses, and debt collectors

Go to and click “Get Started.”

There’s detailed advice for tax, medical, and child identity theft – plus over thirty other types of identity theft.

No matter what type of identity theft you’ve experienced, the next page tells you what to do right away. You’ll find these steps – and a whole lot more – at