A new phishing scam has been uncovered by the FBI, one that targets you by pretending to come from your employer. By sending you a phishing email that claims to be from your workplace’s HR department, hackers hope to get their hands on your login credentials to steal your direct deposit paycheck.

It starts with an email that looks genuine, and it redirects you to a website that looks like an official workplace online portal. You enter your login details, confirm your identity, and then you’re all set.

Unfortunately, the portal was actually transmitting your credentials to the hackers, who’ve already breached your company’s website. They use your credentials to log in and change your direct deposit information, which will put future paychecks in their accounts or on prepaid debit cards.

The only way you’ll know your paycheck didn’t end up in your account might be when your account drops below the minimum balance, usually as a result of making purchases or paying your bills. Of course, once that happens, you get to handle the bad check fees and penalties from your bank while the hackers make off with your money.

One of the telltale signs of a phishing email is notoriously poor spelling and grammar, but since this one is posing as your own company’s HR department that might not be the case. Also, this scam is seeking out individuals who have a username and password to log in with. Therefore, it may be targeting a more select group of employees rather than casting a wide net and hoping to snag an everyday consumer.

Fortunately, the ways to avoid this scam are as simple as avoiding any other phishing scam. The downside, though, is that developing these habits requires you to instinctually learn to ignore direct requests, even ones that appear to come from your employer.

1. Never click a link, open an attachment, fill out information, verify your identity, or otherwise engage in any sensitive activity without checking it out thoroughly. It does not matter who the sender is: ignore any request of this kind and make a direct phone call to the supposed agency instead.

2. Verifying information that the sender should already have is an automatic red flag. Why would you need to tell your own employer what your username and password are? They’re the ones who issued them to you!

3. Remember, this same advice pertains to any platform, whether it’s email, text message, social media message, or phone call. Never hand over your information to someone who requests it without checking the situation first.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: Is Your Bluetooth Tracking You?

If you’re making a trip to Seattle, you probably have the famous Gum Wall at Pike Place Market on your list of to-do’s. If you haven’t heard of it the second-germiest tourist attraction in the world, the Gum Wall holds over two thousand pounds of chewed gum on it’s the walls.

Some tourists get creative and chew a whole pack to create an image or spell out words. However, it looks like gum isn’t the only thing people are sticking onto the Gum Wall.  It’s actually common for people to stick on coins, notes, spoons and even personally identifiable information (PII).

Pennies were actually one of the first items people would stick onto the wall with a piece of gum in the early 1990s. The Market Theater continued to clean the wall, but it didn’t seem to stop people from sticking gum onto it.  After the third round of cleaning, the market management decided to let the gum wall be.

Since then, the wall has become filled with business cards, phone numbers, full-names and more. It might seem harmless and fun in the moment, but this may be a threat to your identity later on. A study conducted by Javelin Strategy and Research found that there were 16.7 million identity fraud victims in the U.S last year. It’s important to safeguard your PII as a preventative measure to reduce your chances of identity theft.

It might not seem like a big deal to have your phone number exposed, but if it gets in the wrong hands the data within your mobile device can be compromised. By accessing your phone number criminals can send you scam text messages or phone scams. Both of which can contain phishing attempts or malicious software. This can all lead to a thief accessing your email accounts and change logins or even take money from your mobile wallet.

Even though sticking your old school ID or a business card doesn’t seem like it can do much damage it can cause many problems for you in the long-run. Avoid sharing your PII and keep it just as private as you would with your SSN.

The Gum Wall has only been cleaned once in 2015. So if you’re planning to stick something onto the wall be prepared for it to be there for several years and for millions of people to pass by it.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: The Harm in Hoaxes on Social Media

Natural disasters and large-scale emergencies are part of our reality, no matter how much we wish that weren’t true. Since you cannot prevent the next earthquake, wildfire, or hurricane, you can use that energy to make sure you’re prepared for these outcomes and more.

September is National Preparedness Month, and the Federal Trade Commission urges all people to make a plan. You can start with online resources, and also work to understand what kinds of emergencies are likely to affect you based on your location, age and other demographics.

While other knowledgeable sources will help you determine how much clean water or prescription medications you might need to store, the Identity Theft Resource Center wants you to plan for a different emergency aspect: identity theft protection and fraud prevention during events like these.

In any emergency, you may have to prove your identity while also being cut off from access to your important papers. During the aftermath of a dangerous event, you may need to be able to access your funds and deal with insurance agents, contractors, repairmen and more. Here are some tips to help you through it, including:

1. Secure and access your documents – Your personal papers can play a strange role during a crisis. They are both proof that you are who you say you are, but they are also a hot commodity for scams, fraud and theft. You have to somehow keep them protected at all times, be able to access them in a crisis, but also not let them fall into the wrong hands during times of trouble. Sounds impossible, right?

It doesn’t have to be. First, remember that if you’re evacuating in a sudden emergency like a house fire or flash flood, your documents are not necessary for receiving medical care, emergency housing or other basic needs. In fact, if someone demands your driver’s license or Social Security card before they’re willing to provide that kind of assistance, you might be dealing with a scammer.

However, there will be instances in which you need to provide some kind of proof. When planning your emergency supplies, consider including something like a small, password-protected flash drive that holds pictures of key documents. That way, you’re not endangering your originals—or leaving them stored unsafely when not needed—but you can call them up when the emergency has passed. For every other time, make sure your papers are secured and safe from harm and theft in a safe deposit box, home fire safe, or another protected place.

2. Accessing your funds – As part of any preparedness plan, you need to know how you will get to your money and your insurance documents if you need them. Again, things like emergency medical services should be provided without documentation or money to those in crisis, but if you’re able to provide things like medical insurance cards for less serious issues, that can be helpful.

One option is to place your expired medical insurance cards in your preparedness items. That way, the hospital will at least have the information they need to contact your provider and verify your current coverage. Again, this is for non-life-threatening situations in which you’re simply separated from your documents.

Your money, however, may be in as much danger after an emergency as your family was during the event. Scammers and fraudulent individuals use news of major events as a gateway to targeting victims with everything from repair scams to fake government handouts. Be very careful about who you deal with after an event, and get all price quotes in writing before work begins. Never turn over your information to someone who claims to be part of an assistance program until you have verified their role with a reputable agency.

In order to be prepared, one of the best things to do with your documents is to make sure they are always stored together in a safe place. If you need access to them, you can grab the entire bundle of birth certificates, marriage certificates, property deeds, Social Security cards and more then escape the crisis. If a disaster separates you permanently from your important papers, contact the proper authorities as soon as it’s safe and feasible to do so.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: The Harm in Hoaxes on Social Media

Starting September 21, 2018, credit freezes will now be free for all Americans.

Most U.S. consumers have a credit report, whether they know it or not AND whether they use it or not. These reports are generated by the three major credit reporting agencies, or CRAs, based on activity associated with buying and borrowing. When you first start out, you might have “no credit” and therefore not have a credit report, but multiple lender requests into your credit background can generate a report in your name.

A credit report shouldn’t be confused with a credit score; a report is a comprehensive look at your attempts to make large purchases, borrow funds, open lines of credit and more, while your credit score is based on numerous factors, including information from your credit report. It’s more of a look at what kind of credit risk you might be.

For many years, credit reports were a good way to keep tabs on your financial identity; if someone had stolen your identity and tried to open new accounts or lines of credit, you might find that information on there. At the same time, people who were already victims of identity theft have been urged to put “freezes” or “alerts” on their credit reports to keep thieves from opening more accounts in their names.

Freezes mean that the CRA cannot release your credit report to a lender, which is supposed to prevent a new account from being opened. The problem for many consumers is that freezing your account incurred a small fee, one that ranged from $2 to $10 depending on the agency. “Thawing” your account if you wanted to open a legitimate credit line also could result in a fee, as did refreezing once the process is finished.

Now, Congress has been called upon to take action in light of the recent Equifax data breach. This single event exposed more than 148 million consumers’ complete identities to hackers. As a result, Equifax offered free credit freezes for a limited time, but lawmakers came up with another solution. Thanks in part to grassroots advocacy efforts, the House has passed a bill that will waive the credit freeze fee for all consumers from all three credit reporting agencies.

This bill, which has been signed into law by the White House, will not go into effect until September 21st, so in the meantime, consumers need to remain vigilant about protecting themselves:

  1. If you haven’t already done so, Equifax is still offering free credit freezes until the law goes into effect. Signing up for a freeze is simple and instructions are on their website.
  2. Regardless of whether you have freezes in place, monitoring your credit reports routinely is important for protecting yourself from identity theft crimes. You are entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You can find out more at annualcreditreport.com.
  3. Checking over account statements and using strong passwords on all of your accounts can help minimize the risk and the long-term effects of identity theft.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: Equifax After The Fact – One Year Later

Info Sheet: Credit Freeze Laws for Protected Consumers 

To date, 33 states have passed laws for allowing consumers to place a freeze on credit reports for protected consumers.  The definition of a protected consumer differs by state but generally includes children under 18 years old or children under 16 years old, and any individual who has a legal guardian or conservator.  While most states allow you to place a freeze if a credit report already exists due to identity theft, the following 33 states will allow you to create a credit report for your child proactively when no credit report exists, then freeze it:

  1. Arkansas
  2. Arizona
  3. California
  4. Connecticut
  5. Delaware
  6. Florida
  7. Georgia
  8. Hawaii
  9. Illinois
  10. Indiana
  11. Iowa
  12. Kansas
  13. Kentucky
  14. Louisiana
  15. Maine
  16. Maryland
  17. Michigan
  18. Minnesota
  19. Montana
  20. Nebraska
  21. New York
  22. North Carolina
  23. Ohio
  24. Oregon
  25. South Carolina
  26. South Dakota
  27. Tennessee
  28. Texas
  29. Utah
  30. Virginia
  31. Vermont
  32. Washington
  33. Wisconsin

The National Conference of State Legislatures has a chart that lists each state and the corresponding laws/fees.  Please note that most states allow for no fees if the individual requesting a freeze (or his/her parent or guardian) can prove he/she is a victim of identity theft.  If you have questions about checking to see if your child has a credit report and how to freeze a report with each credit reporting agency, read our how-to here.

Due to Senate Bill 2155, as of September 21, 2018 residents in all 50 states will be able to place a credit freeze on their, and their child’s, credit report and request that a credit report for a protected consumer (which includes children under the age of 16) be created and frozen if a credit report does not exist.

This info sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to itrc@idtheftcenter.org. Copyright, Identity Theft Resource Center®, all rights reserved.

Parents instinctively protect their children from any danger that might come their way, but what do parents tend to overlook? Child identity theft.  Given the prevalence of this crime – more than one million cases of child identity theft cases were reported last year alone – it’s crucial that parents and legal guardians start taking the necessary steps to help minimize their children’s risks. To help encourage this thinking, Experian has deemed September 1 as Child Identity Theft Awareness Day to generate more attention around this prolific crime in hopes that it will reduce the amount of victims.

Children’s identities are seen as desirable because they are often left unmonitored for many years, giving thieves ample time to wreak havoc. For example, a recent survey conducted by Experian found that 45 percent of respondents didn’t discover they were a victim of identity theft until they were between the ages of 16 and 18.  Additionally, more than half of those surveyed didn’t discover they were a victim of child identity theft until they applied for credit as an adult or when they received a bill or credit card in the mail.

The emotional toll this crime takes on its victims is also worth noting. The survey discovered that 35 percent of the child identity theft victims surveyed sought professional help in dealing with related stress, anxiety, anger or depression related to the theft; 68 percent said they are fearful it could happen to them again; and 65 percent are angry about the credit roadblocks they have faced. Furthermore, 10 years later, 1 out of 4 victims surveyed are still dealing with the issues and 81 percent of them remain concerned about their ability to get approved for credit in the future.

As illustrated in the survey, the effects of child identity theft can be long lasting and although this crime is not completely unpreventable, parents and legal guardians can take the necessary steps to minimize their children’s risks. For starters, many parents/legal guardians don’t realize that they might be unintentionally putting their child at risk of identity theft by carrying their Social Security card, giving out this number to entities that don’t legally need it (doctor’s office/hospital) and by not being proactive.

Interestingly enough, the survey revealed that when the parents discovered the child identity theft, their children were 14 years old on average, whereas if the child found out about the theft themselves, they were 19 years old on average. What parents don’t often realize is that they might be able to discover this theft even sooner, which could potentially save their children years of headache.  First, parents need to be on the lookout for signs of child identity theft, which include the following: protecting their Social Security number, monitoring their children’s personal information, social media and online activity, paying attention to privacy policies and teaching them about identity theft risks. Second, they might consider doing Experian’s free Child ID Scan, which is a one-time service for parents or guardians to check if an Experian credit report exists for their child. If you do find out that your children’s information has been compromised, we recommend contacting the Identity Theft Resource’s toll-free number at 888-400-5530 to speak to an experienced advisor who can inform you about the necessary steps to take to resolve the issue. You can also use their live chat feature on their website at: www.idtheftcenter.org

Taking small steps to protect your child’s identity can not only greatly reduce their risk of becoming a victim but it can also help them in the long run.

Experian proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: The Harm in Hoaxes on Social Media

Students around the country are heading back to school in a matter of weeks—if they haven’t started already, that is—so there’s no better time to prepare for scams and fraud. Crimes that target the identities of young people have risen steadily in recent years, and there’s no better victim than a student with a “clean slate” credit report and quick access to spending power.

There are a few ways that scammers can target young people’s identities, and unfortunately, a lot of the avenues for this crime go hand-in-hand with heading off to college. The need for a new credit card, the requirement to move into a new place and activate utilities, even the temporary halt on your mail while you settle in at school can all lead to scams if you don’t know what can be a threat.

Here are just a few of the things that young adults need to protect themselves against as they head into another school year

Ah, the Credit Cards!

As recently as a few years ago, you couldn’t walk across a college quad without being inundated with credit card offers. These sideshow carnival hawkers would call out to students and offer everything from free t-shirts to frisbees to pizzas to even the chance to win high-end electronics. New legislation about what financial institutions can do to lure young people into applying for outrageously high-interest credit cards has helped, but it didn’t solve all the problems.

Remember, when you fill out an application for a new credit card, you’re handing over your entire identity to someone who stuck a piece of paper and a free pen in your face. But do you really need a credit card with a 29 percent interest rate? And do you really trust the hourly wage or contract employee who’s going to take your application? If you can’t honestly answer positively, skip the card. Head back to your room and do some homework online for the best credit card, if you even need a card, that is.

Employment Scams

College students love earning extra money. If the job fits around their course and study schedules it might be hard to resist. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how scammers steal identities from unsuspecting students. The ability to make thousands of dollars a month (or even per week, according to some ads) while still having time for class, studying and socializing is certainly enticing…and scammers know it.

Protect yourself by being a little skeptical. There isn’t a job that will pay you a lot of money for doing nothing or for setting your own hours and working in your pajamas. Also remember that a legitimate job won’t require a processing fee, an upfront out-of-pocket cost or needs all of your identifying information in order to apply.

Moving Scams

You wouldn’t think college students have all that much stuff to move, but remember, you’re creating a whole new residence. As such, there are a lot of moving scams online that promise to store or transport your goods. The only catch is you have to pay upfront for the service, and then you have to cross your fingers and hope they actually show up to help.

Instead, only deal with reputable companies in your vicinity that you can see face-to-face. If you’re moving so far that you can’t meet them in person—such as moving across the country to go to school—try to find an escrow service that will hold your payment until the job is completed and both parties are satisfied.

Financial Aid Scams

There will never be a point in which a college student couldn’t use a little free money for tuition, books, housing or meals. Scammers are actually counting on this need in order to target you with financial aid scams.

Scholarships, grants, and low-interest loans certainly exist and make college possible for a lot of students, but for every genuine opportunity, there’s a scam waiting to snare you instead. Never give your information to a website or online ad that you haven’t verified, and run away if you’re ever told to pay a “processing” or application fee. Even better, check with your student financial aid office for reputable sources of funding for school.

There are plenty of things about college life that can trip you up, but falling victim to scams and frauds shouldn’t be part of it. Just use your head and trust your instincts, but when in doubt, reach out to your school, your family or a faculty advisor for information before you act.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

It turns out the boogeyman is actually hiding in the deep dark web, not your child’s closet.

Identity theft is often misconstrued as an issue that only adults deal with; however, it’s also something that affects children. According to Javelin Strategy and Research’s 2018 Child Identity Fraud Study, one million child identity theft cases were reported in the U.S. last year.

It is important to note that these are only reported cases, so the actual number of child identity theft victims is likely higher. According to the calls we receive from impacted individuals, many child identity theft cases go underreported because they may have been perpetrated by a custodial or non-custodial parent, a close relative or even family friend, and the victim might not feel comfortable pressing charges.

Criminals see children’s identities as a hot commodity because they’re typically unmonitored and clean. Since children don’t start to establish credit until they are an adult (age 18) and open their first credit card or take out a loan, parents don’t usually think to check their child’s credit history. Unfortunately, criminals see this as the perfect opportunity to use your child’s information to open up several accounts, which may go undetected for years.

After the child’s information is stolen, criminals often turn to the dark web to sell it for as low as one dollar. The Dark Web, which contains some areas that are not accessible by normal internet browsers or are gated, holds a variety of illicit activity. So if you’ve been a victim of a data breach or gave personal information to a scammer, your information might be living there, as well as your child’s information.

Even though your child isn’t opening up new lines of credit at the moment, they are still at risk of having their information exposed. One way this can happen is through a data breach.  You should be aware that accidental breaches do occur and you should be mindful of the consequences. For example, schools, doctor offices and daycares hold your child’s personal identifying information (PII) and could be potentially breached. It’s important to find out how your child’s information is collected, stored and disposed.

Often times, thieves will buy a child’s Social Security number (SSN) from the dark web and combine it with a fake date of birth, address and name to completely fabricate an identity. Considered synthetic identity fraud, this is an increasingly common method that criminals use to commit identity theft.  In order to protect your child from the dark web, it’s important to check if a credit report exists with your child’s SSN regularly, never carry their SSN and only provide their SSN when it’s required.

Checking for the existence of a credit report with each of the three credit bureaus is a leading way to identify child identity theft. There are other indicators including the following:

  • Your child receives offers for pre-approved credit cards.
  • You receive bills in your child’s name.
  • A collection notice arrives with your child’s name on it.
  • Your application for government benefits for your child is refused because benefits are already being paid out to someone using your child’s Social Security number.
  • You receive a letter from the IRS saying your child owes taxes. Be aware, however, that any phone call from someone claiming to be with the IRS is almost certainly fraudulent. The IRS communicates with taxpayers by U.S. mail only.

You can contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for free assistance at 888-400-5530 or through the live chat feature on their website: https://www.idtheftcenter.org/

Experian proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

What is considered valuable in terms of personal information has continually shifted definition for decades. At the Identity Theft Resource Center, educating consumers about the value of personal information is one of our top priorities. We often find that many consumers are unaware that having your Social Security number (SSN) exposed in a data breach is far more dangerous than having credit card or debit card information exposed. In addition to your SSN, other personal information that is regularly overlooked are login credentials (i.e. usernames and passwords), which can lead to other information being stolen using a method referred to as “credential cracking.”  This form of hacking is very widespread and more insidious than most Americans realize.

The Open Web Application Security Project defines “credential cracking” as a method that cybercriminals use to “identify valid login credentials by trying different values for usernames and/or passwords.” This is important considering that, according to the 2017 Verizon Data Breach Incident Report, 80 percent of hacking related data breaches were carried out using either stolen passwords and/or weak or guessable passwords. This means that cybercriminals attempt to gain access to a consumer’s account using educated guesses. How does someone make an educated guess about another person’s passwords? There are a couple of ways that this is done and it’s a lot easier than one might think. For example, criminals can use software that runs every word in the dictionary through authentication in hopes that a consumer has used a simple word as their login credentials.  Another way that cybercriminals make educated guesses on login credentials is to use common passwords. Unfortunately, this is successful as consumers continue to use passwords such as “password” or “1234567”. Another way that hackers crack credentials, which is the most pertinent to the focus on the value of personal information, is the use of breached login credentials.

In 2017, there were nearly 179 million pieces of personal information stolen, lost or exposed in data breaches. The use of breached login credentials by hackers is pertinent to the value of personal information because it transforms our ideas of what information is the most dangerous to have stolen by hackers or lost in a data breach.  For example, consumers would most likely consider having their tax information lost or stolen in a breach far more dangerous than having their Yahoo or Gmail account credentials stolen. However, the use of “credential cracking” shows us that one can be just as dangerous as the other.

In order to understand why this can be so detrimental, consumers should first think about the login credentials, most commonly this is a username and password, they use on their online accounts. While the best practice is that consumers use different login credentials on each of their accounts, this often isn’t a reality. How many consumers use the same username and password for their Facebook account as they do for their online banking? Even those who may think they are being safe by using different passwords often only use one or two slight modifications, such as the addition of a punctuation mark or another number to their commonly used passwords. When this is the case, all that a cybercriminal has to do is get their hands on the login credentials for one account and they have the key to open many accounts, which may be far more dangerous than the initial account which was compromised. This is crucial for consumers to understand. It shows why each piece of personal information, even something as seemingly useless as the login credentials for an old Twitter account you no longer use can spell big trouble. This is why we stress that consumers need to protect all the components of their personal information because they all have value. Of course, don’t hand out your SSN as you would your email address. The best strategy is to continue to guard that information as incredibly sensitive as well as protecting other personal information.

Our reminder to you is that every single piece of personal information has value. While the login credentials to your social media accounts may not initially cause the damage that an exposed SSN or banking account information will, with a little work from criminals those social media login credentials can lead to exposing more forms of personal information. Each piece of personal information is like a puzzle piece or clue which can be put together to cause serious damage in the form of identity crime.  So, while the value of a SSN, or other sensitive personal information, is far more valuable in the eyes of identity thieves, an email password has value as well. Both can lead to having your identity stolen. Consumers must understand that each piece of personal information or data has value and protect it.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

It can happen to anyone, and can happen anywhere. You’re going about your business when you suddenly find a wallet on the ground. You look around to see if you can still spot the person who lost it, but they don’t seem to be nearby. You pick it up, open it carefully, and are shocked by what you see inside.

This scenario happens every single day, and some of the best, most responsible people can be either the wallet loser or the wallet finder. Unfortunately, picking up someone’s personal—and possibly even valuable—property can come with both risks and benefits.

Of course, the very first benefit is the opportunity to be a Good Samaritan, to be a bright spot in someone’s day. After all, they’ve just lost something very important, and the consequences for them can range from aggravating to downright terrible. Returning their property to them in the condition in which they lost it can really make you feel good.

At the same time, you could be opening yourself up to a few risks. What if the owner claims there was a lot of money in it, money that was long gone before you ever found it? What if the owner later accuses you—either innocently or maliciously—of identity theft or financial account takeover? Maybe this chance to help someone is just too big of a burden after all…

Your next steps in a situation like this can vary a little bit depending on where you located the wallet. If you’re in a store or business, your gym, a doctor’s office, or any other location that has a surveillance camera, you’re probably in the clear from accusations. Remain visible while picking it up, and turn it in at the front desk immediately. If you feel it’s necessary, you can wait while the attendant tries to locate the owner. The driver’s license, credit cards, and any retail rewards cards can help; just call the number on the credit cards or rewards cards and provide the name or account number. They should have a contact number for the owner, and can pass along the location of the wallet.

But what if you’re out in the open? A wallet can easily fall out of someone’s pocket, briefcase, or handbag, and there might not be security cameras to help you prove that you had every innocent intention. It’s best in this case to dial the local police department’s non-emergency number—please do not tie up the 911 dispatch system for something like this—and tell them that you are standing near a lost wallet. Ask for a patrol vehicle in the area to come and take over, and wait with the wallet if you can.

What should you do if someone comes up and claims to be the owner? Let it go. Whether they are the owner or not is not really in your wheelhouse. You are not responsible for someone who may or may not have criminal intentions, and getting into an argument over the property is not worth it in the end.

NOTE: It’s very tempting to post about the wallet on social media sites like Facebook in order to track down the owner, but that is not a good idea. You have no way of identifying the real owner, and you could risk compromising that person’s identity if you post a photo that includes part of the driver’s license, a credit card, a checking account number, or other details.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.