How does Identity Theft Occur?
Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone's identifying information, such as name, address, date of birth, social security number and mother's maiden name, in order to impersonate them. This information enables the identity thief to commit numerous forms of fraud which include, but are not limited to taking over the victims financial accounts, opening new bank accounts, purchasing automobiles, applying for loans, credit cards and social security benefits, securing a rental property, and establishing services with utility and phone companies. Your information may have been obtained via theft of your wallet/purse, mail, or personal data retrieved from your trash. Credit reports and personal information can be obtained by a thief posing as a landlord or employer. If you have been burglarized, personal information may have been taken. Personal information can also be bought from "inside sources" via the internet. At restaurants do not leave credit card receipts on the table, hand them directly to a business employee.
What to do if you become a victim
It's up to you to take measures necessary from becoming further victimized.
- Contact the police department at 838-1234.
- Contact all creditors by phone and in writing.
- Set up a folder and keep a detailed history of this crime.
- Keep a log of all your contacts and make copies of all documents.
- If your mail has been stolen or tampered with contact the US Postal Inspector at 838-6531 or www.usps.gov/websites/depart/inspect
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC is a federal clearing house for complaints by victims of identity theft. The FTC helps victims by providing information to help resolve financial and other problems that could result from identity theft. Their hotline is 877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338).
- Call each of the three credit bueraus' fraud units to report identity theft. Ask to have a "Fraud Alert" placed in your credit file asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts.
PO BOX 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348
PO BOX 1017
Allen, TX 75013-0949
PO BOX 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634
- Request that a copy of your credit report be sent to you.
- Alert your banks to flag your accounts and contact you to confirm any unusual activity. Request a change of PIN and a new password.
- If you have any checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to the following companies:
National Check Fraud Service (843) 571-8143
SCAN (800) 262-7771
TeleCheck (900) 710-9898
Chexsystem (800) 428-9623
CheckRite (800) 766-2748
CrossCheck (707) 586-0551
Equifax Check Systems (800) 437-5120
International Check Services (800) 526-5380
- Contact the Social Security Administration's Fraud Hotline (800) 269-0271; Earnings/Benefits Statement (800) 772-1213.
- Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (866) 658-5758 to see if another license was issued in your name. If so, request a new license number and fill out the DMV's complaint form to begin the fraud investigation process.
- Obtain a description of the suspect (if known).
- Obtain witness information.
- Determine the financial loss to you. Attach all supporting documentation.
- Remove mail from mailbox as soon as possible.
- Deposit all outgoing mail in post office collection mailboxes or at your local post office. Do not leave in unsecured mail receptacles.
- Never give personal information over the telephone (social security number, date of birth, mother's maiden name, credit card number, or bank PIN code) unless you initiated the phone call. protect this information and release it only when absolutely necessary.
- Shred pre-approved credit applications, credit cards receipts, bills, and other financial information you don't want before discarding them in the trash or recycling bin.
- Never leave receipts at bank machines, bank counters, trash receptacles, or unattended gasoline pumps. Keep track of all your paperwork. When you no longer need it, destroy it.
- Order your credit report from the three credit bureaus quarterly to check for fraudulent activity or other discrepancies
- Shield the screen with your hand when entering your PIN number.
- Memorize your social security number and all your passwords. Do not record them on any cards or anything in your wallet or purse.
- Sign all new credit cards upon receipt. Or sign the CHECK ID.
- Save all credit card receipts and match them against your monthly statement.
- Notify your credit card companies and financial institutions in advance of any change of address or phone number.
- Never loan your credit cards to anyone.
- Never put your credit card or any other financial account number on a postcard or on the outside of an envelope.
- If you applied for a new credit card and it hasn't arrived in a timely manner, call the bank or credit card company involved.
- Report all lost or stolen credit cards immediately.
- Closely monitor expiration dates on your credit cards. Contact the credit card issuer if replacement cards are not received prior to the expiration dates.
- Beware of mail or telephone solicitations disguised as promotions offering instant prizes or awards designed solely to obtain your personal information or credit card numbers.
Internet and Online Services
- Use caution when disclosing checking account numbers, credit card numbers, or other personal financial data at any web site or online service location unless you receive a secured authentication key from your provider.
- When you subscribe to an online service, you may be asked to give credit card information. When you enter any interactive services site, beware of con artists who may ask you to "confirm" your enrollment service by disclosing passwords or the credit card account number used to subscribe. Don't give them out.
Information Web Sites
- Federal Trade Commission www.ftc.gov
- California Department of Consumer Affairs www.dca.ca.gov
- California Attorney General's Office www.caag.state.ca.us
- Privacy Rights Clearing House www.privacyrights.org
- U.S. Government Accounting Office www.gao.gov
- U.S. Postal Inspection Service www.usps.gov/postalinspectors
- International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators www.iafci.org
- Sonoma County District Attorney www.sonoma-county.org/da/index/html