Click to Home
Go To Search
RSSPrintEmailFacebookTwitter
Identity Theft
Consequences of Identity Theft
Identity theft or identity fraud is the taking of a victim’s identity to obtain credit and credit cards from banks and retailers, steal money from a victim’s existing accounts, apply for loans, establish accounts with utility companies, rent an apartment, file bankruptcy, or obtain a job using a victim’s name. Thousands of dollars can be stolen without the victim knowing about it for months or even years.

Identity Theft Prevention
You can minimize your chances of becoming a victim by taking the following precautions:
  • Read the California Office of Privacy Protection's: A Guide for Identity Theft Victims.
  • Be sure to read the privacy policy on all websites.
  • Carry only what you actually need for identification and limit the number of credit cards in you wallet.
  • Consider ordering a copy of your free credit report each year to verify the information. The three major credit reporting agencies are:
    • Equifax: (800) 525-6285
    • Experian: (888) 397-3742
    • Trans Union: (800) 680-7289
  • Don’t put outgoing mail in your mailbox for pick up with account information or checks. Take to the post office.
  • Keep passwords to financial accounts private. Don’t use personal information for passwords.
  • Make a list of all your credit card and bank account numbers with customer service numbers and keep it in a safe place.
  • Store items with personal information in a safe place and shred them before discarding.
  • Verify the company or business you’re providing personal information to and find out how it will be used. 


Top 10 Tips for Identity Theft Protection

 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. The following tips can help you lower your risk of becoming a victim.

 

1. Protect your Social Security number.

Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. If your health plan (other than Medicare) or another card uses your Social Security number, ask the company for a different number.


2. Fight “phishing” – don’t take the bait.


Scam artists “phish” for victims by pretending to be banks, stores or government agencies. They do this over the phone, in e-mails and in the regular mail. Don’t give out your personal information – unless you made the contact. Don’t respond to a request to verify your account number or password. Legitimate companies do not request this kind of information in this way.   Bottom line:  never give out your personal information – unless you made the contact.

3. Polish Your Password Practices.

Identity thieves love passwords because they open doors to our personal information.  Get tough and organized now.  Use different passwords to all your accounts.  Make those passwords strong with at least eight characters, including a mix of numbers, letters and symbols (such as $+r0<ghH@H).  Hide them safely, and keep them handy.  Good password practices are work, but fixing an identity theft problem is hard labor.
 

4.  Be Mysterious on Social Networks.


What you share on social networks (your home or email address; children’s names; birth date and so on) is what tech-savvy thieves use for scams, phishing and account theft.  Don’t over-share.

 
5. Shield Your Computer and Smartphone.


Protect your personal information on your computers and smartphones. Use strong passwords and firewall, virus and spyware protection software that you update regularly.  Steer clear of spyware. Download free software ONLY from sites you know and trust.  Do not install software without knowing what it is.  Set Internet Explorer browser security to at least “medium”.  Do not click on links in pop-up windows or spam emails.


6. Click with Caution.


When shopping online, check out a Web site before entering your credit card number or other personal information. Read the privacy policy and look for opportunities to opt out of information sharing. (If there is no privacy policy posted, consider shopping elsewhere.) Only enter personal information on secure Web pages with “https” in the address bar and a padlock symbol at the bottom of the browser  window. These are signs that your information will be encrypted or scrambled, protecting it from hackers.


7. Check your statements.

Open your credit card bills and bank statements right away.  Check carefully for any unauthorized charges or withdrawals and report them immediately.  Call if bills don’t arrive on time.  It may mean that someone has changed contact information to hide fraudulent charges.


8. Stop Pre-Approved Credit Offers.

Stop most pre-approved credit card offers. They make a tempting target for identity thieves who steal your mail. Have your name removed from credit bureau marketing lists. Call toll-free  1-888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688). Or opt out online at www.optoutprescreen.com.

9. Check Your Credit Reports – for FREE.

One of the best ways to protect against identity theft is to monitor your credit history.  You can get one FREE credit report every year from each of the three national credit bureaus:  Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.  Request all three reports at one or be your own no-cost credit-monitoring service.  Just spread out your requests, ordering from a different bureau every four months.  (More comprehensive monitoring services from the credit bureaus cost from $44 to over $100 per year.)  Order your free annual credit reports by phone, toll-free, at 1-877-322-8228; or online at www.annualcreditreport.com.  Or you can mail in an order form.


10. Ask Questions.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions when a business or agency asks for your personal information.  Ask how it will be used, how it will be shared and how it will be protected.  Explain you are concerned about identity theft.  If you’re not satisfied with the answers, consider taking your business somewhere else.

Former Victims

 
If you are a victim of identity theft, you can obtain the Identity Theft Victim's Request for Fraudulent Trasaction/Account Information, by clicking here.  Report the crime to the credit bureaus and place an immediate fraud alert. For assistance with investigation identity theft or fraud, contact Identity Council of Alameda County.