SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Many people have fallen victim to identity theft or know someone who has.

If you suspect your identity has been stolen you need to act fast. Identity theft occurs when criminals gain access to your social security number, financial accounts or other personal information.

If you have a strange charge on your credit report or bank, it could be a sign you have fallen victim to identity theft.

The first thing you should do to place a fraud alert or a credit freeze with one of the 3 credit agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Then file a report with your local law enforcement. This will help you dispute the fraudulent charges but it could also lead to an arrest.

According to the Office of Consumer Information, the most important thing to do when your identity is stolen is to be active don’t think it will just go away.

Milagros Johnson, director at the Office of Consumer Information, told 22News it’s important to always review your financial accounts and statements.

“That’s why it’s so important that they review their bank statements if you are going paperless that’s perfectly fine but make sure you log in on a regular basis to ensure those charges are your charges don’t wait before it goes on for months,” said Milagros Johnson.

There are precautions you can take to avoid having your identity stolen. Utilize resources that banks and credit card companies offer to keep you aware of your account activity.

It’s also important to properly dispose of personal information. Shred paper, don’t just throw it away.