Interwoven with many cases of fraud and forgery is the crime Identity Theft. Starting with a stolen social security number and a mother's maiden name, identity thieves can open new accounts in your name and obtain goods, services, and money. You first become notified when the bills start arriving or creditors call looking for bills to be paid.
The San Bruno Police Department takes reports on identity theft when your personal identifying information is used to obtain goods and services within the city limits. If your information is used elsewhere, we can take a courtesy report, but investigative responsibility lies where the goods or services were obtained.
In dealing with the authorities and financial institutions, keep a log of all conversations, including dates, names and phone numbers. Note time spent and expenses incurred. Confirm conversations in writing. Send correspondence by certified mail (return receipt requested). Keep copies of all letters and documents.
Immediately call the fraud units of one of the three credit reporting companies and report the theft of your credit cards or numbers. Ask that your account be flagged. Also add a victim's statement to your report, up to 100 words (example: "My ID has been used to apply for credit fraudulently. Contact me at 888-888-8888 to verify all applications"). Be sure to ask how long the fraud alert is posted on your account, and how you can extend it if necessary.
Contact all creditors immediately with whom your name has been used fraudulently - by phone and in writing. Get replacement cards with new account numbers for your accounts that have been used fraudulently. Ask that old accounts be processed as "account closed at consumer's request". Carefully monitor your mail and credit card bills for evidence of new fraudulent activity. Report it immediately to credit grantors.
Report the crime to all police and sheriff's departments with jurisdiction in your case. Give them as much documented evidence as possible. Get a copy of your police report, or at least the officer's name, badge number, date, time of report, and the case number. Keep the phone number of the officer or fraud investigator, and give it to creditors and others who require verification of your case.
If you have had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to the check verification companies. Put stop payments on any outstanding checks that you are unsure of. Cancel your checking and savings accounts and obtain new account numbers. Give the bank a secret password for your account (not your mother's maiden name).
If your ATM card has been stolen or compromised, get a new card, account number and password. Do not use your old password. When creating a password, don't use common numbers like the last four digits of your social security number or your birthday.
Fraudulent Change of Address
Notify the local Postal Inspector if you suspect an identity thief has filed a change of address with the post office or has used the mail to commit credit or bank fraud. Find out where fraudulent credit cards were sent. Notify the local Postmaster for that address to forward all mail in your name to your own address. You may also need to talk with the mail carrier.
Secret Service Jurisdiction
The Secret Service has jurisdiction over financial fraud, but it usually does not investigate individual cases unless the dollar amount is high or you are one of many victims of a fraud ring. To interest the Secret Service in your case, you may want to ask the fraud department of the credit card companies and/or banks, as well as the police investigator, to notify the particular Secret Service agent they work with.
Social Security Number Misuse
Call the Social Security Administration to report fraudulent use of your social security number. As a last resort, you might want to change your number. The SSA will only change your number if you fit their fraud victim criteria. Also order a copy of your Earnings and Benefits Statement and check it for accuracy.
If you have a passport, notify the passport office in writing to be on the lookout for anyone ordering a new passport fraudulently.
If your long distance calling card has been stolen or you discover fraudulent charges on your bill, cancel the account and open a new one. Provide a password that must be used any time the account is changed.
Drivers License Misuse
You may need to change your driver's license number if someone is using yours as identification on bad checks. Call the state office of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to see if another license was issued in your name. Put a fraud alert on your license. Go to your local DMV to request a new number. Also, fill out the DMV's complaint form to begin the fraud investigation process. Send supporting documents with the completed form to the nearest DMV investigation office.
False Civil and Criminal Judgments
Sometimes, victims of identity theft are wrongfully accused of crimes committed by the imposter. If a civil judgment has been entered in your name for actions taken by your imposter, 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 state Department of Justice and the FBI. Ask how to clear your name.
You may want to consult an attorney to determine legal action to take 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. Call the local Bar Association to find an attorney who specializes in consumer law and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (Full Version).
Dealing With Emotional Stress
Psychological counseling may help you deal with the stress and anxiety commonly experienced by victims. Know that you are not alone. Contact CALPIRG or the Privacy Clearinghouse for information on how to network with other victims.
Write to your state and federal legislators. Demand stronger privacy protection and fraud assistance by creditors and credit bureaus. Contact CALPIRG for information on any pending state or federal legislation.
Don't Give In
Finally, do not pay any bill or portion of a bill that is a result of identity theft. Do not cover any checks that were written and/or cashed fraudulently. Your credit rating should not be permanently affected, and no legal action should be taken against you. If any merchant, financial institution or collection agency suggests otherwise, simply restate your willingness to cooperate, but don't allow yourself to be coerced into paying fraudulent bills.