Identity Theft

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What is Identity Theft?

Identity Theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone’s identifying information such as name, address, date of birth, social security number, mother’s maiden name, etc., in order to impersonate them. This information enables the identity thief to commit numerous forms of fraud, including taking over the victim’s financial accounts, purchasing automobiles, applying for loans, credit cards, and social security benefits, renting apartments, establishing utility and phone services as well as many other creative theft schemes.

Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Mail & Telephone:

  • Promptly remove mail from your mailbox upon delivery.
  • Deposit outgoing mail in Post Office collection mailboxes or at your local Post Office. Do not leave mail in unsecured mail receptacles.
  • Never give personal information over the telephone, such as your social security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, credit card numbers, or bank PIN number. Protect this information and only release it when absolutely necessary and only to someone with whom you are familiar.
  • Never give information to solicitors who try to obtain your personal information or credit card numbers.

Credit Cards & Wallets:

  • Shred pre-approved credit applications, credit card receipts, bills, and other financial information you don’t want before discarding them in the trash or recycling bin.
  • Empty your wallet of extra credit cards and ID's. Cancel the ones you don't use and maintain a list of the ones you do use.
  • Order your credit report from the three credit bureaus once a year to check for fraudulent activity or other discrepancies.
  • Never leave receipts at bank machines, bank counters, trash receptacles or unattended gas pumps. Keep track of all your paperwork and when you no longer need it, shred it!
  • Memorize your social security number, all PIN numbers, and passwords. Do not record them on any cards or documents carried in your wallet or purse.
  • Sign all new credit cards upon receiving them. Without your signature your card company may not cover any fraudulent charges on your card.
  • Save all credit card receipts and check them against your monthly statement.
  • Notify your credit card companies and financial institutions in advance of any change of address or phone number(s).
  • Never loan your credit cards to anyone.
  • Never record your credit card number or financial account numbers on a postcard or on the outside of an envelope.
  • If you apply for a new credit card and it does not arrive in a timely manner, call the bank or issuing card company and report the delay.
  • Report all lost or stolen credit cards to your card company immediately.
  • Closely monitor expiration dates on your credit cards. Contact the credit card issuer if replacement cards are not received prior to the expiration dates.

Internet and Online Services

  • Be very careful when disclosing checking account numbers, credit card numbers or other financial data on any website or online service location, unless you receive a secured authentication key from your provider.
  • When you subscribe to an on-line service, you are commonly requested to supply a credit card number. When you enter any interactive service site be aware of con artists who may ask you to “confirm” your enrollment service by disclosing passwords or credit card numbers used to subscribe.
  • Make sure your anti-virus definitions are up to date on your computer.
  • Install a firewall to help protect your computer from intruders.
  • Beware of e-mails asking you to confirm, or "click here" to confirm your account information. It is always best to visit a site directly rather than clicking on a link provided in an e-mail.

What to do If You Become a Victim

  • Keep a log of all your contacts and make copies of all documents. Set up a folder to keep a detailed history of this crime.
  • Contact all creditors, by phone and in writing, to inform them of the problem.
  • Notify the U.S. Postal Inspector if someone tampered with or stole your mail.
    U.S. Postal Inspection Service for Ventura: 1-626-405-1200.
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC): 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338).
    The FTC helps victims by providing information to help resolve financial and other problems that could result from identity theft.
  • Alert your banks to flag your accounts and contact you to confirm any unusual activity. Request a change of your PIN number.
  • If you have checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to your bank and cancel the account(s). Make sure your bank enters your closed account into Check Systems. If necessary, notify one of the following check verification services of your closed or fraudulent accounts.
    • National Check Fraud Service: (843) 571-2143
    • SCAN: (800) 262-7771 --- Telecheck: (800) 710-9898 or (800) 927-0188
    • Cross Check: (707) 586-0551 (call after 30 days).
  • Contact every merchant who accepted a fraudulent check and send them a copy of your Affidavit of Forgery and police report. This will help defuse creditors and avoid negative credit ratings.
  • Contact the Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline (800) 269- 0271.
  • Contact the State Office of the Department of Motor Vehicles to see if another license was issued in your name. If so, request a new license number and fill out the DMV complaint form to begin the fraud investigation process.
  • Obtain description of suspect, if known.
  • Obtain witness information, including names and phone numbers.

Report Identity Theft to Credit Bureaus

Call each of the three Credit Bureau Fraud Units to report your identity theft. Ask to have a Fraud Alert/Victim Impact statement placed in your credit file asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts. Request a copy of your Credit Report from each of the three credit bureaus.

  • Equifax
    P.O. Box 740241
    Atlanta, Georgia 30374
    To order your report: 1-800-685-1111
    To report fraud: 1-800-525-6285
  • Experian
    P.O. Box 9530
    Allen, Texas 75013
    To order report: 1-888-397-3742
  • Trans Union
    P.O. Box 390
    Springfield, PA 19064
    To order your report: 1-800-916-8800
    To report fraud, cal1-800-680-7289

Informational Websites

Bank ATM Skimmer Devices

Our department occasionally receives reports from individuals who have been victims of an ATM “Skimmer” device scam.  It is believed the criminal(s) install equipment onto legitimate bank ATM's in order to steal both the ATM card number and the PIN.  The perpetrator(s) sit in a nearby car receiving the information transmitted wirelessly from the equipment installed on the front of the ATM.  (Please see some example photos below or we also recommend doing a search on the Internet for “ATM Skimmers” which will yield a number of image results).

The equipment used to capture the ATM card number and PIN is cleverly disguised to look like normal ATM equipment.  What’s known as a "skimmer" is mounted to the front of the normal ATM card slot that reads the ATM card number and transmits it to the criminals sitting in a nearby car.  In many cases, a wireless camera is disguised to look like a leaflet holder and is mounted in a position to view ATM PIN entries. The thieves copy the cards and use the PIN numbers to withdraw thousands from many accounts in a very short time directly from the bank ATM.

In many cases it seems the device is attached to the front of the ATM by Velcro or double sided tape and can be easily removed.  In order to ensure the ATM is authentic, the user should take hold of the card receiver and give it a tug.  If it is fake it should dislodge from the ATM machine and come off.  Also, it is suggested to put your hand over the keypad when you enter your PIN so it can't be seen by a camera.

The VPD wants to remind you to be cautious when using any ATM machine. If something about it looks suspicious, don’t use it.  If you see what you suspect is a “skimmer”, report it immediately to the bank and to law enforcement.

Additional ATM safety tips:

  • Be aware of your surroundings, particularly at night. If you observe or sense suspicious persons or circumstances, do not use the machine at that time.
  • Have your ATM card ready and in your hand as you approach the ATM. Don't wait to get to the ATM and then take your card out of your wallet or purse.
  • Be careful that no one can see you enter your PIN at the ATM. Use your body to "shield" the ATM keyboard as you enter your PIN into the ATM.
  • To keep your account information confidential, always take your receipts or transaction records with you.
  • Do not count or visually display any money you received from the ATM. Immediately put your money into your pocket or purse and count it later.
  • If you are using a drive-up ATM, be sure passenger windows are rolled up and all doors are locked.
  • If you leave your car and walk to the ATM, lock your car.

 Sample Images of Skimmer Device
 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Scam Dead People

OK, I don't really scam dead people, but some crooks do. I read about a guy in Florida who, using names and social security numbers of 160 deceased folks was able to acquire 700 credit cards from 15 different financial institutions, charging nearly 2 million dollars over a three year period. Phew!

This is an extraordinary case, but using someone's death to perpetrate crime is not terribly uncommon. Thousands of credit cards and checking accounts are opened every year in the name of folks who have already left this mortal world.

Bad guys scan obituaries and funeral service notices for information like:

  • Decedant's name
  • Decedant's birthdate
  • Names of decedants relative (mother's maiden name?)
  • anything else they might be able to use for fraudulent purposes.

Sadly, there are even cases of really brazen thieves watching for dates and times of services and then burglarizing relatives homes while they are honoring their loved one. In this case, it would be prudent to ask a neighbor or friend to stay at the house during services to keep an eye on things.

It's unpleasant, but important to be aware of these types of crimes and to take precautions to guard against them. The Identity Theft Resource Center has compiled fact sheets on a number of types of scams and fraud, including one on Identity Theft and the Deceased. For more information, click here