What is Identity
Identity theft is a
crime. According to the U.S. Department of Justice,
identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to
all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and
uses another person’s personal data in some way that
involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.
Sometimes criminals may use identity theft to mask their
real identity to undertake serious crime.
How does a thief
steal your identity?
An identity thief is
after information that personally identifies you. This
information may include your name, date of birth, address,
financial account information, credit card numbers, or
social security number.
Most of us do not
realize how easy it is to obtain personal data.
Common ways an
identity thief may obtain your personal information:
surfing - A thief may watch
you from a nearby location and observe you type in
information such as your credit card number, PIN, or calling
card number. They may listen in on a conversation where you
give your credit card number over the phone to a hotel or
Diving - A thief can obtain
valuable information discarded in your trash, such as credit
card or bank statements, checks, or other records that
contain your name, address, or phone number. A thief may
also use a discarded credit card offer you put in the trash
to open an account in your name, and then use the account
for fraudulent purposes.
your address – A criminal may
attempt to complete a change of address form to have your
billing statements and other mail to another address.
- During an otherwise legal
transaction using your credit or bank card, a thief may
photograph, copy, or use a small electronic device that
captures and stores credit and bank card information.
– Through the use of spam,
pop-up messages, or other fake email offers, a thief can
obtain bank account information, credit card numbers, or
other financial information.
– A thief may steal your
wallet, purse, or mail to use your credit cards or personal
– Through the use of false
pretenses, a criminal may obtain your information from
financial institutions, utility companies, telephone
companies, or other sources which may have your personal
Ways to help
minimize the opportunity for a criminal to steal your
careful when giving out any personal or financial
information. We may use our credit cards, debit cards, or
other financial transaction methods several times a day. Be
mindful of who you are giving your information to and be
alert to any suspicious activity on your financial
questions about how your personal information will be used
before you give it to anyone. If you do not absolutely have
to give personal information, do not give it. You may have
the choice to not use information requested, such as
telephone numbers, addresses, or other valuable
you do not receive credit card bills or other financial
statements on time, follow-up on them quickly. Consider
provide your social security number when completely
necessary. Other forms of identification may suffice.
only the identification and credit/bank cards you need. If
your ID or credit/bank cards are stolen immediately notify
your creditors and/or financial institution by calling
them. You then should call the three credit bureaus to
request a fraud alert be placed in your file.
your credit report at least once a year. Check for
accuracy, any suspicious transactions, or unauthorized
Guard all personal
information carefully. Shred bills, statements, receipts,
credit applications/offers, expired credit cards, and any
other information containing personal or financial
information as soon as you no longer need them.
What to do if you
become the victim of Identity Theft:
Immediately contact the fraud
units of the three principal credit bureaus.
PO Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348
PO Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634
PO Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013
Describe the situation completely. The credit
bureaus will also remove you
from a list the agencies
provide for pre-approved credit.
- Ask that a fraud alert or protective
statement be added to your credit file. Ask
how long the statement will remain on your
credit file. It should stay on your file for
at least a year. When a credit grantor
accesses your credit file and sees the fraud
alert, they should contact you at your home
phone to verify that it was you who
requested the credit. You can also add a
victim's statement to your report. "My ID
has been used to apply for credit
fraudulently. Contact me at (your phone
number) to verify all applications."
- Although these measures may not
completely stop new fraudulent accounts from
being opened by the thief, they will greatly
help. Request a copy of your credit report
every few months to monitor new accounts and
detect fraud or suspicious activity
an account has been fraudulently opened or accessed, contact
the security departments for the appropriate
creditor/financial institution. Have the accounts closed.
3. Report the
crime to the local police and obtain a copy of your report
to provide to financial institutions or credit companies if
requested, and for your personal file.
the Federal Trade Commission
Call toll-free: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338);
- Or by mail:
Identity Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20580
Below are some
helpful websites for information concerning Identity Theft
United States Department of Justice, Identity
Theft and Identity Fraud -
Federal Trade Commission, Fighting Back
Against Identity Theft -
Complaint Center (IC3) -
Federal Bureau of Investigations, Common
Fraud Schemes -
Federal Trade Commission, Avoiding Credit
Card and Charge Card Fraud -
Social Security Administration, Identity
Theft and Your Social Security Number -
Identity Theft Resource Center®,
Nonprofit Organization -
contained in this bulletin was obtained from various sources
by the USC Division of Law Enforcement & Safety, Office of
Crime Prevention and Community Relations.
For additional safety advice and tips, you
may contact Sgt. Kenneth Adams at 777-0855 or e-mail
If you are a victim or witness of a crime, you can call Inv.
Calvin Gallman at 777-7786 or e-mail