Money Management

Identity Theft - The Nightmare That Keeps On Giving


Identity theft is a crime in which the imposter obtains key pieces of information such as Social Security and driver’s license numbers to obtain credit, merchandise, and services in the name of the victim. The victim is left with a ruined credit history and the time-consuming and complicated task of regaining financial health. The imposter may even use the victim’s good name for criminal activities.

The Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) mission is to research, analyze, and distribute information about the growing crime of identity theft. ITRC is nationally recognized as a resource and advisory center for consumers, victims, law enforcement, legislators, businesses, and governmental agencies. Volunteers are always welcomed.

Anything with a bar code needs to be shredded.

Consumers are limited on what they can do to prevent this crime. The best approach is a team approach by consumers, businesses, and governmental entities. To decrease risk we recommend that you:

1. Cross-cut shred sensitive papers before they go in the trash. This includes pre-approved credit card offers, checks, insurance benefit statements, bills, statements, anything with bar codes.

2. Guard your SSN – don’t carry it and resist giving it out unless necessary. Don’t put your SSN on checks.

3. Check your credit report once a year. [Editor’s note: To find out more about getting free annual credit reports, click here.] The three credit report agencies in the U.S. are:

  • TransUnion: 800-888-4213, www.tuc.com, (fraud division — 800-680-7289) TDD 800-553-7803

  • Experian: 888-EXPERIAN, www.experian.com, (fraud div. — 888-397-3742), TDD 800-972-0322

  • Equifax: 800- 685-1111, www.equifax.com (fraud division — 800-525-6285)

    4. Block your name from pre-approved credit card lists – 888-5OPTOUT

    5. Guard your personal information. Carry as little as possible in your wallet. Get credit cards with your picture on them. Be alert to shoulder surfers listening for information. Cancel credit cards you no longer use.

    6. Use firewall software to protect your computer (www.zonealarm.com). Watch out for Internet scams. [Editor’s note: These include “phishing” scams. For examples, go to www.snopes.com and use the search term phishing scams.]

    Businesses have a co-responsibility to protect your information. Businesses need to:

    1. Better verify credit applications, observe fraud alerts on credit reports (this has been the law in California since July 2004), and question items that do not match bureau reported information.

    2. Discontinue the practice of using the SSN as a customer or employee number, publicly displaying SSN including cards carried in wallets, items posted on boards, or as an access number to enter a computer or cash register systems (in California, effective dates vary, ranging from 2004 to 2007).

    3. Stop asking for information they don’t need. Your health club and vet do not need your SSN.

    4. Safeguard personal information as if it was the company’s best-kept secret.

    5. Severely limit who has access to your information and under what circumstances.

    6. Make sure they store, destroy and protect your information properly.

    If you become a victim of ID theft, please contact us or go to our website, www.idtheftcenter.org. Click on Victim Resources. There are many guides to help you. Above all, know we are as close as your phone. If you have a wallet that has been lost/stolen, use guide #104.

    Californians, laws to know: Found at www.privacy.ca.gov:

  • PC 530.6 – Requires police to take a report where an ID theft victim lives and give a copy to the victim.
  • PC 530.8 – Requires credit issuers to give ID theft victims and law enforcement copies of applications, application info, and transaction information on accounts established in the victim’s name.
  • Credit Freeze law – go to www.privacy.ca.gov/financial/cfreeze.htm for more info.
    Voice: (858) 693-7935 Web: www.idtheftcenter.org Email: itrc@idtheftcenter.org

    Print Date: 9/25/2020
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    All information is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified.
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