What Is Identity Theft?
Identity involves acquiring key pieces of someone’s personal identifying information (name, address, date of birth, Social Security Number, bank account number, etc.) to commit theft, fraud, or other crimes.
How Can Someone Steal My Identity?
Identity thieves use a variety of methods to obtain your personal identifying information. The methods the thieves use are limited by their own creativity, and include both low and high tech methods. Here are a few of the more popular ways to steal your personal information:
- Obtaining information from businesses or other organizations
that retain your personal identifying information by:
- Stealing information from their own employer
- Paying someone who has access to personal identifying information to get it for them.
- Hacking into a computer system that retains personal identifying information.
- They go through your trash looking for documents that have your personal identifying information on it. A practice commonly know as “dumpster diving.”
- They steal credit and debit card account numbers as your card is processed by using a special information storage device in a practice known as “skimming.”
- They steal mail, including bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks, or tax information.
- They scam information from you by posing as a legitimate business person or government official.
- They steal wallets and purses containing identification and credit and bank cards.
- They send you email posing as a legitimate business (bank, retailer, etc.) asking for you to provide them with your personal identifying information, a practice commonly know as “phishing.”
What Do Identity Thieves Do With My Personal Identifying Information?
- They go on spending sprees using your bank account, credit card, or debit card numbers and purchase “big ticket” items that they can easily sell.
- They open credit cards or credit accounts using your personal identifying information, and when they don’t pay the bill the delinquent account shows on your credit report.
- Take out auto or home loans in your name.
- Give your name to the police during an arrest. When they are released and do not show up for court an arrest warrant could be issued in your name.
How Do I Find Out If I am a Victim of Identity Theft?
- Conduct a credit report on yourself at least once a year.
- If an identity thief is using your personal identifying information to create credit accounts in your name these accounts will likely show up on your own credit report. Check you credit report for any unauthorized accounts.
- For information about how to get a free credit report click HERE (www.annualcreditreport.com).
- If you receive credit cards in the mail that you did not apply for, this is a good indication that an identity thief has targeted you.
- Failing to receive credit card statements, bills, or other correspondence that you receive on a regular basis may be a sign that an identity thief has tampered with your existing credit accounts.
- If you apply for a loan and are denied or offered a high interest rate for no apparent reason, an identity thief may have opened credit accounts in your name that are now delinquent.
- If you get calls from bill collectors or businesses regarding delinquent accounts that you did not open an identity thief may have opened the accounts in your name.
What Do I Do If I am a Victim Of Identity Theft?
- Set up a folder to keep a detailed log of the crime. (ID
- Include a log of all your contacts and make copies of all documents you receive in relation to the crime. Keep copies for yourself, provide the originals to law enforcement.
- Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus. Inform them that you are an identity theft victim. Request a “fraud alert” be placed in your file. A “fraud alert” requires creditors to call you and confirm your identity prior to opening any new credit accounts or changing any existing accounts.
- Credit Report Only: 1-800-685-1111
- Reporting Fraud: 1-800-525-6285
- Website: (http://www.equifax.com/)
- Credit Report Only: 1-800-916-8800
- Reporting Fraud: 1-800-680-7289
- Website: (www.transunion.com)
- Credit Report/Reporting Fraud: 1-888-397-3742
- Website: (www.experian.com)
Contact all creditors by phone and in writing to inform them of the problem. Complete an Identity Theft Affidavit (link to AFFIDAVIT.pdf) and send it to the creditors along with a letter explaining the problem.
File a report with your local law enforcement agency or with the law enforcement that has jurisdiction in the area where the identity theft took place. Get a copy of the police report and keep it for your records, and to provide to creditors as proof that a police report was filed.
- Provide law enforcement with information on all compromised financial accounts.
If the report is filed with the Chico Police Department, you must complete the identity theft worksheet and return it to the department so that a complete investigation can be done. (ID Theft Form).
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigators. Filing a complaint also helps the FTC learn more about identity theft and the problems victims are having so they can better assist victims of identity theft. A complaint can be filed with the FTC here (http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/).
Alert your banks that you are an identity theft victim (even if your bank accounts have not been effected). Ask you banks to flag your accounts and to contact you and confirm any changes to your account or unusual activity. Request a change of PIN and a new password.
Determine the financial loss to you. Attach all supporting documentation.
What Preventative Measures Can I Do To Keep From Being Victimized By An Identity Thief?
- Promptly remove your mail from you mailbox.
- Never put outgoing mail in an unsecured mailbox. Deposit your outgoing mail in post office collection mailboxes or at your local post office.
- Never give your personal information to anyone over the telephone, unless you initiated the call.
- Protect your Social Security Number and only release it when
- Inquire what you Social Security Number is going to be used for.
- Inquire who has access to your personal information.
- Inquire what precautions are implemented to protect your personal information.
- Inquire what will happen if you do not provide your Social Security Number.
- Never leave your receipts at ATM’s.
- Sign all credit cards when you receive them.
- Shred all pre-approved credit applications, credit card receipts, bills, and financial information you don’t want before discarding them.
- Federal Trade Commission – ID Theft website (http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/)
- Federal ID Theft Task Force – (http://www.idtheft.gov/)
- California Office of Privacy Protection (www.privacy.ca.gov)
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (www.privacyrights.org)
- IRS Identity Protection (https://www.irs.gov/identity-theft-central)