Identity theft is a serious crime. How does it happen? Identity theft commonly begins with the loss or theft of a wallet or purse, and occurs when someone uses personal information such as your name, address, date of birth or social security number without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Ald. Puente, a retired Milwaukee police captain, says you can't entirely control whether you will become a victim, but there are steps you can take to minimize your risk:

  • Don't carry your social security card in a wallet.
  • Minimize the number of credit cards & identification you carry.
  • Never give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you've initiated the contact.
  • Tear or shred charge receipts, credit applications, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards and credit offers.
  • Use passwords for your credit card, bank and phone accounts but avoid using easily identifiable information.

If you are a victim of identity theft:

  • Notify Milwaukee police at (414) 935-7387.
  • Contact the fraud department of the three major credit bureaus.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report and review it.
  • Contact creditors involved and close tampered accounts.

A reminder that consumers in Wisconsin can now obtain a free copy of their credit report once a year. The three major credit reporting companies have a central toll-free number, website and mailing address through which you can order your free annual report.  Call 877-322-8228, click on www.annualcreditreport.com or download a request form from www.ftc.gov/credit and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.