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Identity Theft Resources

Tips for protecting yourself against identity theft

This article applies to: Security & Policy , Students

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Identity theft is a persistent problem increased by data breaches worldwide. The Equifax breach affected as many as 147 million U.S. consumers. Your best defense is to practice good security habits and encourage everyone you know to do the same.

“Identity theft is a serious crime. It occurs when your personal information (name, Social Security number, date of birth, credit card number, or bank account number) is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can cost you time and money. It can destroy your credit and ruin your good name.”

Source: Federal Trade Commission Federal Trade Commission

Protect Your Personal Identity

Take these steps now to protect your personal identity and financial information:

  1. Create your online Social Security account—regardless of your age or retirement eligibility—to strengthen your cybersecurity and help prevent fraud. If you already have an account, regularly review your statements and be alert for benefits activity you didn't initiate.
  2. Freeze your credit report to prevent attackers from obtaining credit histories and opening new lines of credit. Note: If you know you'll need to apply for a loan or credit card in the near future, a 90-day fraud alert could be a simpler choice. Learn about the differences between a fraud alert and a credit freeze.
  3. If you aren't already using Cornell’s Two-Step Login service, enroll now and choose the option to expand where you use it.
  4. Be suspicious of ALL phone calls and emails that request personal information, or threaten that you'll lose access to something if you don't log in or respond. If you think it might be real, look up the company's contact information and contact them directly. Read more tips on spotting fraudulent emails.

Help for Identity Theft Victims

If you believe you may be the victim of identity theft, contact your local community law enforcement or the Cornell Police at 607-255-1111 to file a report. is the U.S. government’s one-stop resource for identity theft victims. The site provides streamlined checklists and sample letters to guide you through the recovery process.

You can:

  • Tell them what happened.
  • Get a recovery plan.
  • Put your plan into action.

Get help to report and recover from identity theft.

More Information

September 2017 Equifax Breach

Equifax is one of the three largest credit-reporting agencies in the U.S. On September 7, 2017, the company announced a security breach that potentially affected 147 million U.S. consumers. You can find out if you were affected and enroll in a credit monitoring service at no cost.

Per, "enrolling in the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection products that [Equifax is] offering as part of this cybersecurity incident does not prohibit consumers from taking legal action."

IRS Security Awareness

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses a stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. The victim may be unaware that this has happened until they e-file their return and discover that a return has already been filed using their Social Security number. Or the IRS may send a letter saying they've identified a suspicious return filed using their Social Security number.

For information on how to reduce your risks, stay aware, and what to do when you think something's happened, visit the IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.

Useful Web Resources

Website Name Website URL Resource Description
Federal Trade Commission National consumer protection agency. Learn more about the crime of identity theft.
Equifax National credit reporting agency.
Experian National credit reporting agency.
TransUnion National credit reporting agency.
Annual Credit Report Only authorized source to obtain your free credit report under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). You are entitled to a free report from each of the three major credit bureaus once every 12 months. Service is also available at 1-877-322-8228.
OptOutPrescreen Opt in or opt out of prescreened offers for credit or insurance. Service is also available at 1-888-5-OPTOUT.
Federal Trade Commission – Identity Theft Recovery One-stop resource for identity theft victims, with streamlined checklists and sample letters to guide you through the recovery process.


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