Identity theft is someone taking personal information like your name, Social Security number, or financial account number and using it for an unlawful purpose. Under California law, you can report identity theft to your local police department. Officers of this department will investigate and report crimes occurring within this jurisdiction that have resulted from the original identity theft (e.g., the identity theft occurred elsewhere but the credit card fraud occurred and is reported in this jurisdiction).
If you are a victim of identity theft, you are the only person who can clear your credit report. Use a ledger, Excel Spreadsheet, or composition notebook to document ALL forms of communication you have with company representatives, creditors, etc. This includes the date and time of phone calls, the names of company representatives with whom you speak, phone numbers, and dates and times you sent or received letters. Once you discover that you are the victim of identity theft, you should take the following immediate steps to prevent further damage:
- Place an Initial Fraud Alert: You can report the identity theft to all three of the credit reporting agencies (CRA) by calling any one of the toll-free fraud numbers down below and asking for an “initial fraud alert” on your credit reports. Then that CRA will contact the other two CRAs on the victim’s behalf. Once you have the alert on your report, businesses are required to verify your identity before it issues credit by asking you to enter your social security number and other information to identify yourself. The fraud alert last for 90 days and can be renewed for an additional 90 days if necessary.
As a follow-up measure, ask each of the credit reporting agencies in writing to:
- Provide you with a free copy of your credit report monthly basis.
- Remove all inquiries that have been generated because of fraudulent access.
- Provide you with the names and phone numbers of businesses that have opened fraudulent accounts.
- Notify those businesses that have received your credit report in the past six months.
Each of the credit reporting agencies will send you a letter confirming your fraud alert and giving you instructions on how to get a copy of the credit report. As a victim of identity theft, you will not be charged for these reports.
- Review Your Credit Reports: After receiving copies of your credit reports, review them carefully. If you know which of your accounts have been tampered with, contact the related businesses. Talk to a representative in the fraud department (e.g., credit card companies, lenders, phone companies, utility companies, and department stores) and follow up with them in writing. Tell them you are the victim of identity theft and to not hold you accountable for any new accounts opened by the thief. If your existing credit accounts have been used fraudulently, ask the credit users to close those accounts and to report them to credit bureaus as “closed at consumer’s request.” Any letters you send should be sent by certified mail with a return receipt request. This ensures a report of your communication. For more information see the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft website at https://consumer.ftc.gov/features/identity-theft.
- File a Police Report: Under California Penal Code § 530.6(6): “A person who has learned or reasonably suspects that his or her personal identifying information has been unlawfully used by another…may initiate a law enforcement investigation by contacting the local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction over his or her actual residence or place of business.”Give the police as much information on the theft as possible. One way to do this is to provide copies of your credit reports showing the items related to identity theft. Black out other items not related to identity theft. Give the police any new evidence you collect to add to your report.Be sure to get a copy of your police report. You will need to give copies to creditors and the credit bureaus.
- Create an Identity Theft Report and Affidavit: Creditors may ask you to fill out fraud The Federal Trade Commission’s I Theft Affidavit is accepted by credit agencies and most major creditors. An Identity Theft Report gives you some important rights that can help your recovery from theft. It also helps you deal with credit reporting companies, debt collectors, and businesses that gave the identity thief credit or opened new accounts in your name.
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) via:
- Telephone: 877-438-4338
- Online at: https://www.ftc.gov/
- By mail: ID Theft Clearinghouse – Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvanian Avenue NW
Washington DC, 20580