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Identity Theft

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An identity thief takes your personal information and uses it without your knowledge. The thief may run up debts or even commit crimes in your name. Identity theft victims can spend months or years and thousands of dollars clearing their name and credit record. In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, or even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.

Prevent Becoming a Victim
Be extremely cautious when handling and disclosing the following:
Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, date of birth, current and past addresses, driver license number, credit card account number, and Personal Identification Numbers (PINs)

  • Never carry your social security card with you. If your health plan (other than Medicare) or another card uses your social security number, ask the company for a different number.
  • Never provide personal information unless you initiated the contact. Scam artists known as “phishers” pretending to be banks, stores, or government agencies will ask for your personal information over the phone, in e-mails, and in regular mail. Don’t respond to requests to verify your account number or password. Legitimate companies do not request this information using these methods.
  • Be careful what you throw in the garbage. Shred or tear up papers with personal information before throwing them away. Shred unused credit card offers, convenience checks, canceled checks, transaction receipts, and any other financial forms. Place your trash out in the morning on garbage collection day.
  • Shield your computer from viruses and hackers. Use strong passwords with at least eight characters, including a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols easy for you to remember, but difficult for others to guess. Use firewall, virus, and spyware protection that you regularly update. Download software only from sites you know and trust. Don’t install software without knowing what it is. Set browser security to at least “medium.” Don’t click links in pop-up windows or spam.
  • When shopping online, check out a website before entering your credit card number or other personal information. Read the privacy policy and look for opportunities to opt out of information-sharing. Only enter personal information on secure pages identified with “https” or a padlock symbol to ensure the data is encrypted.
  • Open your credit card bills and bank statements upon receipt. Check carefully for any unauthorized charges or withdrawals and report them immediately. Call if bills don’t arrive on time. It may mean someone has changed contact information to hide fraudulent charges.
  • Call your credit card company immediately if your card has expired and you have not received a replacement. Report lost or stolen credit cards right away. Sign all credit cards upon receipt.
  • Stop pre-approved credit offers by having your name removed from marketing lists. Call, toll-free, 888-5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
  • Monitor your credit history. You can order a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three national credit bureaus. To order your free credit reports, visit, call (877)322-8228, or you can mail in an order form.
If You Have Been Victimized
  • Set up a folder to keep a detailed history of the crime.
  • Keep a log of all your contacts (name of company, phone number, the person you spoke to, date, and time) and make copies of all documents.
  • Contact all creditors--by phone and in writing--to inform them of the problem.
  • Call each of the three credit bureau's fraud department to report identity theft. Ask to have fraud alert/victim impact statement placed in your credit file asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts.
    • Equifax 
      P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374
      (800) 525-6285
    • Experian 
      P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
      (888) 397-3742
    • TransUnion 
      P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022
      (800) 680-7289

Order a free copy of your credit report from each of the three national credit bureaus. Visit, call (877) 322-8228, or you can mail in an order form.

  • Report the crime to your local law enforcement agency within the jurisdiction where you reside. Give them as much documentation evidence as possible.
  • If your social security number is being used, contact the Social Security Administration’s fraud hotline at (800) 269-0271 or visit
  • If your mail has been stolen or tampered with, notify the U.S. Postal Inspector. They can be contacted through your local post office or by visiting
  • Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to see if another driver 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.
  • If you are wrongly identified as a criminal, the California Department of Justice has an identity theft registry. Report your victimization to them at (888) 880-0240 or visit
  • Alert your banks to flag your account 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 Services (800) 571-2143
SCAN (800) 262-7771
TeleCheck (800) 710-9898
CheckRite (800) 766-2748
CrossCheck (707) 586-0551
Equifax Check Systems (800) 437-5120
International Check Systems (800) 526-5380
  • Determine the amount of your financial loss due to identity theft and be prepared to provide supporting documentation.
  • The FTC is the federal clearinghouse for complaints by victims of identity theft. The FTC provides information to victims to help resolve their financial and other problems that could result from identity theft. Their hotline number is 877-IDTHEFT (438-4338) or visit
  • If you receive a bill from a creditor or collection agency and you didn’t make the charge, you may be a victim of identity theft. In addition to contacting the police department, send a courtesy notice to either the creditor or collection agency.
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