Identity Theft: A Serious Crime Problem in the US

Penal Code Section 530.5: Unauthorized use of personal identifying information. Every person who willfully obtains personal identifying information of another person without the authorization of that person, and uses that information for any unlawful purpose, including to obtain, or attempt to obtain, credit, goods, services, or medical information in the name of the other person without the consent of that person is guilty of a public offense.

What is Identity Theft?

Identify 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 victim's financial accounts, opening new bank accounts, purchasing automobiles, applying for loans, credit cards, and establishing services with utility and phone companies.

What to Do if You Become a Victim:

  • Set up a folder to keep a detailed history of this crime.
  • Keep a log of all your contacts and make copies of all documents.
  • Contact all creditors, by phone and in writing to inform them of the problem.
  • Notify the U.S. Postal Inspector if your mail has been stolen or tampered with:

U.S. Postal Inspector Services (See phone listing under Federal Government)

Local Post Office (see phone listing under Federal Government)

  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the problem: – The FTC is the federal clearinghouse 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 telephone number is (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338).

  • Call each of the three credit bureaus fraud units to report identity theft. Ask to have a “Fraud Alert/Victim Impact” statement placed in your credit file asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts.

Request that a copy of your credit report be sent to you.

Credit Bureaus:


P.O. Box 74021, Atlanta Georgia 30374-0241

To order your report, call (800) 685-1111

To report fraud, call (800) 525-6285


P.O. Box 949, Allen, Texas 75013-0949

To order your report, call (888) 397-3742

To report fraud, call (888) 397-3742

Trans Union

P.O. Box 390, Springfield, Pennsylvania 19064-0390

To order your report, call (800) 916-8800

To report fraud, call (800) 680-7289

  • Alert your banks to flag your accounts and contact you to confirm any unusual activity. Request a change of PIN and new password.

If you have any checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to the following companies:

National check fraud services, call (843) 571-2143

SCAN, call (800) 262-7771

TeleCheck, call (800) 710-9898 or (800) 927-0188

CheckRite, call (800) 766-2748

CrossCheck, call (707) 586-0551

Equifax Check System, call (800) 437-5120

International Check Services, call (800) 526-5380

Contact the Social Security Administration’s Fraud Hotline at (800) 269-0271

  • Contact the state office of the department of Motor Vehicles 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 description of suspect(s) (If known).
  • Obtain witness information (If known).
  • What is the financial loss to you? Attach all supporting documentation.

Preventive Actions:

  • Promptly remove mail from your mail box after delivery.
  • Deposit 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, such as your Social Security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, credit card numbers, bank PIN codes or passwords, unless you initiate the phone call. Protect this information and release it only when absolutely necessary.
  • Shred preapproved credit applications, credit card receipts, bills and other financial information you don’t want before discarding them in the trash.
  • Empty your wallet of extra credit cards and ID’s, or better yet, cancel the ones you do not use and maintain a list of the ones you do have.
  • Order your credit report from the three credit bureaus once a year to check for fraudulent activity or other discrepancies.
  • 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.
  • Memorize your Social Security number and all of your passwords and PINs. Do not record them on any cards or on anything in your wallet or purse.
  • Sign all new credit cards upon receipt.
  • Save all credit card receipts and match then against your monthly bill, then destroy the receipts.
  • Be conscious of normal receipt dates of routine financial statements. Contact the sender if they are not received in the mail.
  • Notify your credit card companies and financial institutions in advance of any change of address or phone number.
  • Never loan your credit card to anyone else.
  • Never put your credit card or any other financial account number on a postcard or on the outside of any 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 and 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 date.
  • Beware of mail, email and telephone solicitations disguised as promotions offering instant prizes or awards designed solely to obtain your personal information or credit card numbers.
Internet and On-Line Services:

Use caution when disclosing checking account numbers, credit card numbers or other personal financial data at any web site or on-line service location unless you receive a secured authentication key from your provider.

When you subscribe to an on-line service, you may be asked to give card information. When you enter any interactive service site, beware of con artist who may ask you to “Confirm” your enrollment service by disclosing passwords or the credit card account number use to subscribe. DON’T GIVE THEM OUT!

Informational Web Sites:

Federal Trade Commission

California Department of Consumer Affairs

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

U.S. Government Accounting Office

U.S. Postal Inspection Service

International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators