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Identity Theft

What Is Identity Theft?

The Law

What To Do If You Become A Victim of Identity Theft

Synthetic Identity Fraud: A New Type of Identity Theft

What To Do If You Become A Victim of Synthetic Identity Theft

Preventive Measures

Other Resources and Contacts

Download "Identity Theft: A Quick Reference Guide"


What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone’s personal information, such as: name, date of birth or social security number, in order to impersonate them. This information quite often enables them to commit numerous forms of fraud which include, opening a new bank account, establishing credit in someone’s name, purchasing goods or buying a new vehicle.

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The Law

PC 530.5: Unauthorized use of personal identifying information.

(A) Every person who willfully obtains personal identifying information of another person and uses that information for any unlawful purpose, including obtaining, credit, goods, services, or medical information in the name of another person without the consent of that person, is guilty of a public offense.

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What To Do If You Become A Victim of Identity Theft

  • File a police report with your local law enforcement agency. Police Departments in California are required to take a crime report for any person
  • residing in their jurisdiction, even if the crime occurred in another city (California Penal Code 530.6).
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and file a fraud affidavit. The FTC is a Clearinghouse for victims of identity theft. The FTC also handles complaints for the social security administration regarding social security number violations. It is not recommended that you change your social security number. Changing the number will not eliminate any negative credit history and could effect the positive record you have established.
  • Contact your bank or creditor and close the impacted accounts. Establish new accounts that are password-protected. The fraud may continue if the account is not closed (Use the FTC fraud affidavit).
  • Contact all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Trans Union, Experian) and place a fraud alert on your account. A 90 day fraud alert can be made without a police report. A seven year fraud alert requires a police report to be included with your claim. The claim must also be in writing to the credit bureaus.
  • Request a copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus. The fraud alert will entitle you to a free copy of your credit report.
  • Review your report carefully for any errors (http://www.annualcreditreport.com).
  • Notify the US Postal Inspector if your mail has been stolen or tampered with.
  • If you had checks stolen or counterfeited by someone, report the problem to the following agencies:
  • If your drivers license number was used, contact the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Complete a complaint form to initiate a fraud investigation (dlfraud@dmv.ca.gov).

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Synthetic Identity Fraud: A New Type of Identity Theft

The newest trend for fraudsters is a technique known as synthetic identity fraud. Just when law enforcement officials and financial institutions developed aggressive safeguards, savvy criminals also hit the drawing board. Synthetic identity fraud is when criminals create an identity using several pieces of information belonging to numerous individuals (Social security number, names). They then use this variety of information to obtain credit cards and consumer loans from financial institutions.

This type of fraud may not immediately affect the consumer as would traditional identity theft. The combination of information used to establish credit may not appear on the consumer’s credit report for some time. This variation of information is sometimes impossible for law enforcement to follow up on because of the volume.

Consumers are paying for this fraud because of the increased fees passed down to them by the financial institutions who suffer losses. Collection agencies could also come after innocent victim’s whose social security number, name or other personal information is fraudulently used.

Synthetic identity fraud creates what is known as “Subfiles” within the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Trans Union & Experian). Subfiles are additional reports tied to an individual’s social security number at the 3 credit bureaus. The negative information from a delinquent file could ultimately be tied to a legitimate consumer. Subfiles can surface when a creditor or merchant attempts to verify a persons credit history.

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What To Do If You Become A Victim of Synthetic Identity Theft

Consumers can employ traditional methods of detecting identity theft by ordering their credit reports and checking them carefully. Synthetic identity fraud information does not always appear on your credit report. Request all files pertaining to you social security number from the credit bureaus. Scrutinize credit denial letters. If you get turned down for credit, make sure the decision was based on information from your subfile. Review the denial letter carefully to determine if any of the information is inaccurate.

Watch your mailbox for suspicious mail or a reduction of usual mail flow. Identity thieves will use a change of address to reroute mail in an effort to perpetrate their fraud. Order your social security benefits statement annually to review your report. Many other traditional techniques can be employed to assist in the prevention of identity theft and synthetic identity fraud.

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Preventive Measures

  • Purchase an industrial strength shredder and destroy all unwanted financial documents. Identity thieves will rummage through trash cans hoping to find
  • documents. These documents (Sometimes referred to as profiles) have a street value to criminals of $150.00 per person.
  • Promptly remove your mail from the mail box as soon as possible after delivery. Mail thieves can create personal profiles from documents stolen out of the mail box.
  • Avoid giving personal information over the telephone or internet such as your social security number, date of birth or driver’s license number. A common scam
  • referred to as pretexting is used to gather bits of information to create profiles of victim’s.
  • Empty your wallet of extra credit cards, social security card, PIN numbers or other financial information. This information should be memorized if possible to avoid any loss.
  • Order a social security statement semi annually to check for fraudulent information or changes. These statements provide valuable information about employment history or potential misuse of your number.
  • Never leave ATM receipts at the bank or other merchant receipts from a business. Many ATM and merchant receipts contain your name and a portion of your bank card number. The law requires businesses to redact all but the last five digits of your card number from store receipts.
  • Review all of your bank records and credit card statements for accuracy. Early detection can assist in repairing any potential misuse.

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Other Resources and Contacts

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El Segundo Police Department

Financial Crimes Unit

348 Main Street

El Segundo, CA 90245

(310) 524-2258

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Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

3100 5th Avenue, Suite B

San Diego, CA 92103

(619) 298-3396

www.privacyrights.org

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Social Security Administration

Office of Public Inquires

Windsor Park Building

6401 Security Boulevard

Baltimore, MD 21235

(800) 772-1213

www.ssa.gov

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National Do Not Call Registry

www.donotcall.gov

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Opt Out

(Stop unsolicited credit card offers)

(888)5-0PTOUT

(888)568-8688

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California Department of Justice

Attorney General

P.O. Box 944255

Sacramento, CA 94244

(800) 952-5225

www.ag.ca.gov

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Equifax

P.O. Box 740241

Atlanta, GA 30374

(800) 525-6285

www.equifax.com

Experian (TRW)

P.O. Box 9532

Allen, TX 75013

(888) 397-3742

www.experian.com

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Trans Union Corp

P.O. Box 6790

Fullerton, CA 92834

(800) 680-7289

www.transunion.com

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Federal Trade Commission

Identity Theft Clearinghouse

600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20580

(877) IDTHEFT

(877) 498-4338

www.ftc.gov

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California Department of Motor Vehicles

(866) 658-5758

dlfraud@dmv.ca.gov

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/consumer/fraud.htm

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US Postal Service

Criminal Investigations Service Center

222 S. Riverside Plaza Ste 1250

CHICAGO, IL 60606-6100

(800) FRAUD IS

(800) 372-8347

http://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/

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