ID Fraud Assistance
This information is provided courtesy of the California Office of the Attorney General and is provided to assist individuals who are victims or suspect they may be victims of identity theft. It is intended as a general guide, not as legal advice.
Victims of identity theft must act quickly to minimize the damage. It is very important to keep good notes of all conversations and records of all correspondence with your financial institutions and law enforcement agencies, including a log of the names, dates and phone number of persons you contacted. You also should confirm the information in writing. Sending your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, will provide you with a record of your correspondence.
File a Police Report
Get a copy of the police report and retain for your records. Credit card companies and financial institutions may require you to show a copy of this report to verify the crime. Keep the phone number of your investigator and provide it to creditors and others who require verification of your case.
For any accounts that have been fraudulently accessed or opened, contact the billing inquiries and security departments of the appropriate creditors or financial institutions. Close these accounts. Use passwords - not your mother's maiden name - on any new accounts opened. Confirm your contact in writing. Ask that old accounts be processed as "account closed at consumer's request." Having a "card lost or stolen" reference because when this statement is reported to credit bureaus, it can be interpreted as blaming you for the loss. Carefully monitor your mail and credit card bills and report immediately any new fraudulent activity to credit grantors.
Obtain Your Credit Report
As a victim of identity theft, you may obtain a free copy of your credit report and should monitor activity every few months. Ask the credit bureaus for names and phone numbers of credit grantors with whom fraudulent accounts have been opened. Ask the credit bureaus to remove inquiries that have been generated due to the fraudulent access. Other consumers seeking a copy of their credit report may be charged a fee. Under state law (California Civil Code 1785.16(k)), a consumer submitting a valid police report can have the credit reporting agency block the reporting of any information that the consumer alleges appears on the credit report as a result of identity theft. You also may want to 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.
Consumer and privacy advocates suggest not paying any portion of a bill which is a result of identity theft and not filing for bankruptcy. This will involve disputing credit card charges with the card company by writing to the address for "billing error" disputes - not the bill payment address. You should follow the directions given by the credit card company for disputing charges. This information must be provided by the company. Your credit rating should not be permanently affected, and no legal action should be taken against you as a result of identity theft. If any merchant, financial institution or collection agency suggests otherwise, simply restate your willingness to cooperate, but don't allow yourself to be coerced into paying fraudulent bills. Report such attempts to government regulators immediately.
Sometimes victims of identity theft are wrongfully accused of crimes committed by the identity thief. If a civil judgment has been entered in your name for actions taken or debts incurred 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 obtain information on how to clear your name. The California Department of Justice will be establishing a statewide data base beginning September 2001to provide certain information about identity theft crimes to victims and law enforcement agencies.
For other types of identity theft:
Notify the DMV
You may need to change your driver's license number if someone is using yours as identification on bad checks. Call the DMV to see if another license was issued in your name. Put a fraud alert on your license. Go to your local DMV to request a new number. Also, fill out the DMV's complaint form to begin the fraud investigation process. Send supporting documents with the completed form to the nearest DMV investigation office.
Report Stolen ATM Cards
Get a new ATM card, account number and password. When creating a password, don't use common numbers like the last four digits of your SSN or your birth date. Monitor your account statement. You may be liable if fraud is not reported quickly.
Fraudulent Change of Address
Call the U.S. Post Office to obtain the phone number, (800) 275-8777). Find out where fraudulent credit cards were sent. Notify the local Postmaster for that address to forward all mail in your name to your own address. You may also need to talk with the mail carrier.
Misuse of Social Security Number
Order a copy of your Personal Earnings and Benefits Statement and check it for accuracy. The thief might be using your SSN for employment purposes. If you fit specific fraud victim criteria, the Social Security Administration may change your Social Security Number.
Order Personal Earnings & Benefits Statement
Long-Distance Calling Cards
If your long distance calling card has been stolen or you discover fraudulent charges, cancel the account and open a new one. Provide a password which must be used any time the account is changed.
Missing or Fraudulent Passports
Whether you have a passport or not, write the passport office to alert them to anyone ordering a passport fraudulently.
Seek Legal Advice
You may want to consult a lawyer to determine legal action to take against creditors and/or credit bureaus if they are not cooperative in removing fraudulent entries from your credit report or if negligence is a factor. Call the local Bar Association or Legal Aid office to find an attorney who specializes in consumer law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Credit Billing Act.