Identity Theft

This resource guide is for victims and potential victims of identity theft. It also provides information and resources available to minimize the damage due to fraud.

The Silicon Valley High Technology Task Force REACT (Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team), provides additional services. Read more or call (650) 261-2800.

The crime of identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in history and the government statistics are staggering. The largest credit bureaus report millions in losses every year and the crime has risen 1400% since 1997. Estimated losses include over $1.5 billion in credit card fraud and over 500,000 victims per year, and these losses are still climbing.

Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone's identifying information, such as name, address, date of birth, social security number, and mother's maiden name, in order to impersonate them. This information enables the identity thief to commit numerous forms of fraud which include, but are not limited to, taking over the victim's financial accounts; opening new bank accounts; purchasing automobiles; applying for loans, credit cards, and social security benefits; renting apartments; and establishing services with utility and phone companies.

The law making identity theft a crime was enacted in 1998 and is described in 530.5 of the California Penal Code.

530.6 of the California Penal Code requires the law enforcement agency within the jurisdiction you live to complete a crime report documenting the crime. If the suspected crime was committed in a different jurisdiction, the agency may refer the matter to the law enforcement agency where the suspected crime was committed for investigation and prosecution.

Identity theft can occur in daily consumer transactions in a variety of ways. For example:

Mail theft-- A thief may steal a credit card statement from the mail or steal pre-approved credit offers and convenience checks from a consumer's mail box and use the information contained in them to obtain credit in the consumer's name.

"Dumpster diving"-- If a business discards papers containing its customers' personal identification, a thief can retrieve the information and may sell the information or use it to obtain credit in the consumer's name.

"Insider access"-- An employee of a business may wrongfully retrieve personal identification information that the business has collected for legitimate reasons. The employee then may sell the information and obtain credit in the consumer's name.

Purse or wallet loss or snatching-- The thief may use the consumer's stolen or lost personal identification information to obtain credit in the consumer's name.

Computerized information services-- A business that sorts, packages, and sells personal identification information in electronic form may not safeguard the information adequately, or it may sell it to purchasers that the business has not appropriately screened. The purchaser or thief then may use the information to obtain credit in the names of the consumers to whom the information relates.

Internet-- Personal identification information that is available on the Internet can be accessed by a thief and misused to obtained credit in the victim's name.

It is impossible for a consumer to prevent all distribution of his or her personal identification and credit information or to exercise meaningful control over all of the possible uses of that information. Nonetheless, a consumer can take the following steps to reduce the risk of theft and misuse of his or her personal information and credit information:

  • Do not routinely carry your Social Security card, your birth certificate, your passport, or more than one or two credit cards.
  • Always take credit card, debit card, and ATM receipts with you. Never throw them in a public trash container.
  • Do not leave bill payment envelopes at your mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up. Install a lock on your mailbox.
  • Shred unused pre-approved credit card applications, receipts, bills, and other financial information.
  • Order a copy of your credit report annually from the three major credit card reporting agencies. Check for accuracy and for indications of fraud.
  • Never give out your credit card number, bank account, mother's maiden name, or Social Security number over the phone unless you initiated the call and have a trusted business relationship with the business or organization.
  • Guard against overuse of your Social Security number. Release it only when necessary.
  • If a business requests your Social Security number, ask to use an alternate number.
  • Cancel your unused credit cards.
  • If you do not receive your credit card statement on time, it is possible an identity thief has filed a change of address request with the post office.
  • Call the creditor to see if a change of address request has been filed in your name or if additional or replacement credit cards have been requested on your account.
  • Call the post office to see if a change of address request has been filed in your name. If this has happened, immediately notify the Postal Inspector.
  • If you shop on the Internet, use a secure browser which encrypts or scrambles purchase information or place your order by telephone or mail.
  • Check your Social Security Earnings and Benefits statement once each year to make sure that someone else is not using your Social Security number for employment.
  • Consider having your name removed from marketing lists. You can request from the three credit reporting agencies to refrain from giving your credit information to marketing companies.
  • Opt out of pre-approved offers of credit.
  • Consider not listing your residence telephone number in the telephone book.
  • Make a list of, or photocopy, all of your credit cards and keep this list or photocopies in a safe place.
  • When creating new passwords and PINs (personal identification numbers) do not use part of your Social Security number, birth date, middle name, mother's maiden name, or anything that a thief could easily deduce or discover.
  • Memorize all your passwords and PINs. Never write them in your wallet, purse, Rolodex, or PDA.
  • When ordering new checks, pick them up at the bank instead of having them mailed to you at home.
  • Shield the keypad when at an ATM or when making a calling card phone call.

A consumer must act quickly upon learning that he or she is the victim of identity theft. Acting quickly will help prevent the thief from making further use of the victim's credit identity.

The victim should keep a log of the date, time, and substance of all personal and telephone conversations regarding the theft. The worksheet is provided on the back page of this pamphlet. Send correspondence by certified mail (return receipt requested). Keep copies of all letters and documents.

  1. Creditors. Contact all creditors immediately with whom your name has been used fraudulently. Get replacement cards with new account numbers for your accounts that have been used fraudulently.
  2. Stolen checks. If you had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to the check verification companies listed on the page 10. Put stop payment on any check you are unsure of. Cancel your checking account(s) and savings account(s) and obtain new account numbers.
  3. Fraudulent change of address. Notify the local Postal Inspector if you suspect an identity thief has filed a change of address.
  4. Driver's License number misuse. You may need to change your driver's license number if someone is using your identification on bad checks. Put a fraud alert on your license if another license was issued in your name.
  5. ATM cards. If your ATM card has been stolen or compromised, get a new card, account number, and password. Do not use your old password or your Social Security number when creating a new password.
  6. Social Security number misuse. Call the Social Security Administration to report fraud on your SSN.
  7. Fraud Alert. Contact each of the three major credit reporting agencies and inform them of the theft of your credit cards, account numbers, or identifying information.
  8. Law enforcement. Report the crime to the law enforcement agency within the jurisdiction where you live (530.6 P.C.). Give them as much documentation as possible. Get a copy of your police report. Keep the phone number of your fraud investigator handy and give it to creditors and others who require verification of your case. Credit card companies and banks may also require you to show the report in order to verify the crime.
  9. Phone service. If your long distance calling card has been stolen or if you have discovered fraudulent charges on your phone bill, cancel the account and open a new one and obtain a new password.
  10. False civil and criminal judgments. Sometimes victims of identity theft are wrongfully accused of crimes committed by the impostor. If a civil judgment has been entered in your name for actions taken by your impostor, contact the court where the judgment was entered and report that you are a victim of identity theft. If you are wrongfully prosecuted for criminal charges, contact the CA Department of Justice and the FBI. Ask how to clear your name.
  11. Legal Help. You may want to consult an attorney to take legal action against creditors and/or credit bureaus if they are not cooperative in removing fraudulent entries from your credit report or if negligence is a factor.
  12. Passports. If you have a passport, notify the passport office in writing to be on the lookout for anyone ordering a new passport fraudulently.


Dear (Creditor Name/Collection Agency Name):

On (Date), I received your letter demanding payment of ($amount). I did not open this account and incur this unpaid balance. Someone, other than myself, wrongfully used my personal information to obtain a line of credit/service. Your company extended a line of credit/services to an impostor. Your company is a victim and should file a police report in the appropriate jurisdiction.

You are hereby notified that on (Date), I have filed an Identity Theft report with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office. The case number is (report number). This can be verified by calling the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Records Bureau at (650) 363-4525.


(Your Name and Address)


Dear (Creditor Name/Collection Agency Name):

I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. The items I dispute also are circled on the attached copy of the report I received. (Identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.)

This item is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the item be deleted (or request another specific change) to correct the information.

Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records, court documents) supporting my position. Please investigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.

I have filed an Identity Theft report with the San Mateo County Sheriffs Office. The case number is (report number). This can be verified by calling the San Mateo County Sheriffs Office Records Bureau at (650) 363-4525.


(Your name and address)

Credit Reporting Agencies

11601 Roosevelt Blvd.
St. Petersburg, FL 33716

To report fraud: (800) 525-6285
Order Credit Report: (800) 685-1111
Opt out of pre-approved offers of credit:
(800) 567-8688

Experian (formerly TRW)
P.O. Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013

To report fraud: (888) 397-3742
Order Credit Report: (800) 682-7654
Opt out of pre-approved offers of credit:
(800) 353-0809

Trans Union
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634

To report fraud: (800) 680-7289
Order Credit Report: (800) 916-8800
Opt out of pre-approved offers of credit:
(888) 567-8688

To Report Fraudulent Use Of Your Checks Contact:

National Check Fraud Center
(843) 571-2143

(800) 766-2748

CrossCheck, Inc.
(707) 586-0551

Certegy Check Services
(Formally Equifax Check Services)
(800) 337-5689

National Processing Co.(NPC)
(800) 526-5380

(800) 262-7771

(800) 710-9898 -or-
(800) 927-018

Federal Trade Commission
Identity Theft Hotline
(877) 438-4338

Social Security Administration

To order your Social Security Earnings and Benefits statement:
Data Operations Center
P.O. Box 7004 Wilkes Barre, PA 18767

To report fraud: (800) 269-0271

Order your Earnings and Benefits Statement: (800) 772-1213

Removing your name from mail and telephone lists

Direct Marketing Association
Mail Preference Service
P.O. Box 9008
Farmingdale, NY 11735

Direct Marketing Association
Telephone Preference Service
P.O. Box 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11735

Victim advice and assistance

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
1717 Kettner Boulevard, Suite 105
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 298-3396

California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG)
11965 Venice Boulevard, Suite 408
Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 397-3404

Federal agencies

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)

U.S. Secret Service (USSS)

U.S. Postal Inspectors (USPIS)

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Account information worksheet

Use this form to record the steps you've taken to report the fraudulent use of your identity. Keep this in a safe place for reference. Keep a log of all conversations with the authorities and financial institutions, including dates, names, and phone numbers. Note time spent and any expenses incurred. Confirm conversations in writing. Send correspondence by certified mail (return receipt requested). Keep copies of all letters and documents.

Credit Bureau - Report Fraud
Credit BureauContact NumberDateContact PersonComments
Equifax (800) 525-6285   
Experian (888) 397-3742   
Trans Union (800) 680-7289