RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As the holidays approach, Virginians are more likely to spend time online buying gifts for family and friends. Because of this, more scammers are hacking into accounts and stealing personal information. Because of this increased risk of identity theft, Attorney General Jason Miyares is drawing attention to his Office’s Identity Theft Program, and what you can do if you have your identity stolen.

If you have your identity stolen, start by notifying your bank, credit card company, and a credit bureau — EquifaxExperian or Trans Union. Next, file a criminal complaint with your local police or sheriff’s department. If you believe your identity was stolen while using the Internet, file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Finally, you can request an Identity Theft Passport from the Office of the Attorney General. This passport is a card that you can carry and give to law enforcement if you are questioned about your identity. The passport is designed to protect victims from unlawful arrest for crimes committed by another person under a stolen identity.

To apply for an Identity Theft Passport, mail an application to the Office of the Attorney General Victim Notification Program at 202 North Ninth Street in Richmond, Va.

In addition to an Identity Theft Passport, victims of identity theft can also apply for an Identity Theft Affidavit. An affidavit can be used if you are involved in a dispute over fraudulent debts and accounts opened by an identity thief, and want to alert businesses to this fraud.

If you want to avoid identity theft in the first place, follow some of the tips from the Office of the Attorney General:

  • Never click on link embedded in an unsolicited e-mail, or disclose personal information to the sender.
  • Verify the authenticity of a website before entering financial or personal information. You can verify a site’s authority using a service like VeriSign.
  • Check your online accounts regularly for any suspicious activity.
  • Keep separate passwords for each account you have online.
  • Update anti-virus software weekly.
  • Install and run firewalls on your computer.
  • Order your credit report once a year to check for inaccuracies and fraudulent use of your accounts.
  • Monitor your credit card statements and your credit report.
  • Register your phone number with the National Do-Not-Call Registry
  • Remove your name and address from the telephone book, reverse directories, and city directories.

For more information on what do if your identity is stolen, how to apply for an Identity Theft Passport of Affidavit, or how to avoid identity theft, visit the Office of the Attorney General website.