Identity Theft - What to Do If It Happens to You
This page provides victims of identity theft with the major resources to contact. Victims themselves have the ability to assist greatly with resolving their cases. It is important to act quickly and assertively to minimize the damage. If someone is using your identifying information, (Name, Date of Birth, Social Security, etc.), to obtain credit, goods, services, real property, or medical information and/or fraudulent accounts; then you are the victim of Identity Theft.
Safeguarding Your Identity
In dealing with authorities and financial institutions. Keep a log of all conversations, including dates, times, names, and telephone numbers. Note the time spent and any expenses incurred. Confirm conversations in writing. Send correspondence by certified mail (return receipt requested). Keep copies of all letters and documents.
Once you discover you are a victim of identity theft you should notify the following:
- Contact Credit Bureaus: Immediately call the fraud units of the three credit reporting companies - Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union. Reporting the theft of your credit cards or numbers. The phone numbers are listed on the "resources/links" page. Ask that your account be flagged. Also, add a victim's statement to your telephone report, up to 100 words. Example" ("My ID has been used to apply for credit fraudulently. Contact me at (enter a telephone number or email here) to verify all applications"). Be aware that these measures may not entirely stop new fraudulent accounts from being opened by an impostor. Ask the credit bureaus for names and telephone numbers of credit grantors with whom fraudulent accounts have been opened by an impostor. Ask the credit bureaus to notify those who have received your credit report in the last six months in order to alert them to the disputed and erroneous information.
- Contact Creditors: Contact all creditors immediately with whom your name has been fraudulently used by phone and in writing. Get replacement cards with new account numbers for your accounts that have been used fraudulently. Ask the old accounts to be processed as "account closed at customer's request." This closure is better than "Card lost or stolen" and can be interpreted as if you were responsible for the loss. Carefully monitor your mail and credit cards bills for evidence of new fraudulent activity which should be reported immediately to credit grantors.
- Creditors' Requirement to Report Fraud: You may be asked by banks and creditors to fill out and notarize fraud affidavits, which could become costly. The law does not require that a notarized affidavit be provided to creditors. A written statement and supporting documentation should be enough (unless the creditor offers to pay for the notary).
- Make a Report to Law Enforcement: Report the crime to the Alhambra Police Department or the law enforcement agency in the city where you live or work. Give them as much documented evidence as possible. Get a copy of your police report. Keep the police report number handy and give it to creditors and others who require verification of your case. Credit card companies and banks may require you to show the report to verify the crime. Prior to January 1, 1998, the creditors (credit card companies, banks, etc.) were the only "legal" victims of credit fraud/identity theft. California Penal Code Section 530.5 went into effect on January 1, 1998, giving legal standing to individual victims.
- What to Do if You Have Stolen Checks: If you have had checks stolen or banks accounts set up fraudulently, report it to your bank and to the check verification companies. Put stop payments on any outstanding checks that you are unsure of. Cancel your checking and savings accounts and obtain new account numbers. Give the banks a secret password for your account (not your mother's maiden name).
- What to Do if Your Debit/Check Card Has Been Stolen: If your debit/check card has been stolen or is compromised, get a new card, account number, and password. Do not use your old password. When creating a password, don't use common numbers like the last four digits of your social security number or your date of birth.
- What to Do if You Suspect a Fraudulent Change of Address: Notify the local Postal Inspector if you suspect an identity thief has filed a change of address with the post office or has used the mail to commit a credit card or bank fraud. Find out where the fraudulent credit cards were sent. Notify the local Postmaster to forward all mail in your name. You may also have to talk to the mail carrier.
- What to Do if Your Social Security Number Is Used Fraudulently: Call the Social Security Administration to report fraudulent use of your social security number. Do not request to change your SSN, as it will expose you to "twice the treat" of an identity thief's work. Also, order a copy of your Earnings and Benefits Statement and check it for accuracy.
- Passports: If your passport is stolen, notify the passport office in writing to acquire a new passport.
- To Get a Free Credit Report: Write to: P.O. Box 105283, Atlanta, GA 30345-5283 or call 877-322-8228 or visit Annual Credit Report. You will go through a simple verification process over the telephone or the web. You are entitled to a free credit report each year. (Do not get this site confused with Free Credit Report, which charges a fee.)
- Driver's License Misuse: You may need to change your driver's license number if someone is using yours as identification on bad checks or for other crimes. Contact the DMV to see if another license was issued in your name. Put a fraud alert on your license and also request a new number. Also, fill out the DMV's complaint form to begin the fraud investigation process. Send supporting documents with the complaint to the nearest DMV investigation office.
- False Civil and Criminal Judgement: Sometimes victims of identity theft are wrongfully accused of crimes committed by an impostor. If a civil judgment has been entered in your name for action taken by your impostor, contact the court where the judgment was entered and report that you are a victim of identity theft. If you are wrongfully prosecuted for criminal charges, contact the State Department of Justice and the FBI and ask how to clear your name.
- Register with the Federal Trade Commission: If you are a victim of identity theft, register a complaint with the FTC at 877-438-4338, so your information can be placed into the national database.
- The Office of Privacy Protection: California Department of Consumer Affairs provides direct assistance, as well as information and education to identity theft victims. Call 800-952-5210 or 916-323-0637 or visit the Office of Privacy Protection.
Identity Theft Resources
Credit Reporting Bureaus
Remember, if you have been the victim of credit fraud or denied credit, you are entitled to a free credit report. If you are a victim of fraud be sure to ask the credit bureaus for free copies. They will often provide them. Reporting Bureaus are:
- P.O. Box 720241
Atlanta, GA 30374
- Report Fraud: Call 800-525-6285 and write to the above address
- Order a credit report: 800-685-1111
- Opt-out of pre-approved offers of credit and marketing lists: 888-5OPTOUT or 888-567-8688
- P.O. Box 9530
Allen, TX 75013
- Report Fraud: Call 888-397-3742 and write to the above address
- Order a credit report: same as above
- Opt-out of pre-approved offers of credit and marketing lists: 888-567-8688
- Trans Union
- P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634
- Report Fraud: 800-680-7289
- Consumer Relations: 800-916-8800
- Order a credit report: same as above
Social Security Administration
- Mail Preference Services P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735
- Order your Earnings and Benefits Statement 800-772-1213
- Report Fraud: Call 800-269-0271
- Telephone Preference Services P.O. Box 9014, Farmingdale, NY 11735
- To remove your name from mail and phone lists: Direct Marketing Association
- Chexsystems: 800-428-9623
- Cross Check: 800-843-0730
- SCAN: 800-262-7771
- Telecheck: 800-710-9898
Other Useful Resources
- Federal Government Information Center: Call 800-688-9889 for help in obtaining government agency phone numbers
- Federal Trade Commission: 877-FTC-HELP FTC
- FTC Consumer Information
- For help in any type of consumer complaint, specifically identity theft and referrals to local law enforcement
- Federal: Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act Public Law
105-318, 112 Sta. 3007 (October 30, 1998)
- State of California: Unauthorized Use of Personal Identifying Information 530.5P.C. (January 1, 1998)