HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The holiday season is prime time for identity theft.
The moment you find out your credit card or social security number has been compromised, you have to act fast to stop the damage.
Your first step should be to call your bank or credit card company if you see charges that are not yours.
The companies usually respond very quickly to this. At most, you just have to get a replacement card.
But if the identification theft is more severe, like with a social security number, and entire accounts are being opened in your name, you will need to take bigger steps.
You will have to establish a fraud alert on your credit report to see what is happening with your accounts, and the most drastic step is to activate a credit freeze. That stops all new accounts from opening up.
"Instead of them just kind of tracking your credit status, they actually put a freeze so no one can issue credit to you until you call them back and get them to unfreeze it," said Ryan Marquez with the University of Houston College of Law.
The best way to find out if you have issues is to get a copy of your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies. You get one free copy per year per agency.