Each year, identity theft, one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation, harms thousands of consumers throughout the Central Valley. Ultimately, the identity thief aims to obtain personal information about you, your Social Security number, birth date and credit card numbers. With this information, the identity thief can assume your identity and establish bank accounts or credit in your name, leaving you to deal with the problem.
The Oakdale Police Department is committed to protecting the community from identity theft and prosecuting those responsible for this crime. The following information explains how to prevent identity theft and offers solutions for victims.
New California laws offer help for victims of identity theft. As with all types of fraud, however, the most effective protection is a consumer’s own awareness and vigilance.
Criminals can only assume your identity if they have access to your personal information. Be careful when you disclose any personal facts and keep in mind the following tips:
Never give anyone a credit card number or related information over the phone unless you initiate the call or are dealing with someone you know. Avoid confirming such information to a stranger over the phone.
Do not carry your Social Security number, birth certificate, passport or extra credit cards with you.
When using an ATM shield the viewing screen or keyboard so that others cannot read your Personal Identification Number (PIN).
Do not write your Social Security number or credit card numbers on checks. The Social Security number is a prime target of criminals and provides the key to unlock a variety of personal information.
Order a copy of your credit report once a year to check for false charges that may indicate fraud.
Shred all documents containing account numbers or other personal information before disposing of them. Bank and other financial statements, ATM and credit card receipts and pre-approved credit offers are among criminal’s favorite sources of information.
Finally, keep a list of all credit card account numbers and expiration dates so that you can contact creditors quickly.
Most importantly, remember that personal information about you, your Social Security number, account numbers and PIN numbers are key to your identity. In the wrong hands such information can be used at your expense.
SOLUTIONS FOR VICTIMS:
If you believe someone has stolen your identity, California law entitles you to relief. Your local police agency, or the agency where the crime took place, must take a police report from you and must provide you with a copy of that report to help clear your name.
The following steps will help you block negative information resulting from fraud:
Gather as much information as you can about disputed credit data or other indications of identity theft.
Immediately close all your credit card accounts and notify the bank(s) of the theft.
Report the crime to your local police department and ask the officer to write a police report of the incident.
Ask for copies of the police report and make copies.
Send a copy of the police report, with a letter of explanation, to each of the three major credit bureaus:
Equifax Information Services:
Report Fraud: 1 800 525-6285
Credit Reports: 1 800 685-1111
Report Fraud: 1 888 397-3742
Credit Reports: 1 888 397-3742
Report Fraud: 1 800 680-7289
Credit Reports: 1 800 916-8800
Once the credit bureaus receive a copy of the police report, California law requires the credit bureau to block negative credit information resulting from fraud.
Continue to ask for copies of credit reports regularly for at least several months to check for any new fraud accounts.
If your Social Security number was used fraudulently report the problem to the Social Security Administration’s Fraud Hotline.
The Oakdale Police Department hopes this article provides the community and identity theft victims with important information and resources to reduce the risk of identity theft.
Cop Corner is a monthly column provided by officers of the Oakdale Police Department, offering a variety of information and safety tips.