Be wary of e-mail messages advising you that updated information is required. Many such messages are simply scams, hoping to get access to your credit card information.
Go to http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft for more information.
“The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), working with other government agencies and organizations, has produced this booklet to help you guard against and recover from identity theft. Can you completely prevent identity theft from occurring? Probably not . . . but you can minimize your risk.” If you have been a victim of identity theft, call the FTC hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4388).
Dealing With Identity Theft
Identity Theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. It is a felony in California to use the personal identifying information of another person without authorization of that person for any unlawful purpose including to obtain credit, goods, services or medical information. (Penal Code Section 530.5). The Department of Justice has launched a new Identity Theft Registry. This assists victims who are wrongfully identified as criminals due to the use of their identities by the actual perpetrators. Registration for the registry requires the submission of an application along with fingerprints and court verification that the individual is a victim of identity theft. Once registered, victims may have the Department of Justice notify any individuals or agencies they designate that they are a victim of identity theft. For more information regarding registration go to http://oag.ca.gov/idtheft or call (toll-free) 1-888-880-0240. The number is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.
How can someone steal your identity?
Any person who knows your name, address and telephone number, and any other personal information such as your mother’s maiden name or your Social Security Number, CAN BECOME YOU. Identity theft occurs when someone unlawfully uses your personal information to commit fraud or theft of property, money, services or anything else of value. Think of the information you provide when applying for a credit card. If you have established credit it can be astonishingly easy.
If you have recently been the victim of identity theft:
Call (209)599-2102 to file a report with the police department. The FTC has a comprehensive guide for victims of identity crimes available on their website.
Steps you can take to protect yourself from Identity Theft
- Periodically check your Credit Report. Call immediately if you discover any irregularities.
- Purchase a shredder, and shred all personal information before throwing it away.
- When using ATM’s and Phone Cards, particularly in public places like airports, bus stations, etc. be careful of people looking over your shoulder to obtain your PIN.
- Cancel and destroy all credit cards that you no longer use.
- Do not carry credit cards that you do not normally use in your purse or wallet.
- Do not carry your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport.
- Never give anyone your credit card number or personal information over the telephone unless you initiated the call.
- Do not print your Social Security Number, telephone number, or other unnecessary information on checks.
- Carefully check your credit card and bank statements for charges you did not make.
- Use an unlisted telephone number, or use an initial instead of your full first name.
- If you live in a state that uses your Social Security Number as a driver’s license number, request a state assigned number through your Department of Motor Vehicles.
- Passwords and PIN’s: Use non-consecutive numbers other than your date of birth or the last four of your Social Security Number.
You can “Opt-Out” of Pre-Approved Credit or Insurance Offers “Every day your mailbox may contain an interesting offer of pre-approved credit or insurance. These offers give you numerous choices and opportunities. However, while millions of Americans welcome these choices, others prefer not to receive such offers.” “Your rights as a consumer include the ability to ‘Opt-Out’, which prevents consumer credit reporting companies from using your credit file information for pre-approved offers of credit or insurance. The consumer credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion, want to help companies give American consumers the choices they want.” To go to the “Opt-Out” web site, click here.