Identity Theft

If someone obtains your identifying information (name, date of birth, social security number, etc.) to obtain goods, services, credit and or open fraudulent bank accounts, you are a victim of identity theft.

If You Are the Victim of Identity Theft:
When dealing with the authorities and financial institutions, keep a log of all conversations, including dates, names, and phone numbers. Note time spent and any expenses incurred, in case you are able to request restitution in a later judgement or conviction against the thief. Confirm conversations in writing. Send correspondence by certified mail, return receipt requested. Keep copies of all letters and documents.

2. Credit bureaus. Immediately call the fraud units of the 3 credit reporting companies: Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. Report the theft of your credit cards or numbers and request a credit report (free to identity theft victims). Ask that your file be flagged with a fraud alert. Add a victim's statement to your report. ("My ID has been used to apply for credit fraudulently. Contact me at [your phone number] to verify all applications.") Ask how long the fraud alert is posted on your file and how you can extend it if necessary. Be aware that these measures may not entirely stop new fraudulent accounts from being opened by the impostor. Request a free copy of your credit report every few months so you can monitor any new fraudulent activity.

Ask the credit bureaus for names and phone numbers of credit grantors with whom fraudulent accounts have been opened. Ask the credit bureaus to remove inquiries that have been generated due to the fraudulent access. You may also ask the credit bureaus to notify those who have received your credit report in the last six months in order to alert them to the disputed and erroneous information (two years for employers). When you provide your police report to the credit bureaus, they must block the fraudulent accounts from your credit report (CA Civil Code 1785.16(k)).

3. Creditors. Contact all creditors immediately with whom your name has been used fraudulently, by phone and in writing. You may be asked to fill out fraud affidavits. (No law requires these to be notarized at your own expense.) Get replacement cards with new account numbers for your own accounts that have been used fraudulently. Ask that old accounts be processed as "account closed at consumer's request." (This is better than "card lost or stolen," because when this statement is reported to credit bureaus, it can be interpreted as blaming you for the loss.) Carefully monitor your mail and credit card bills for evidence of new fraudulent activity. Report it immediately to credit grantors.

Back to Top

4. Law enforcement. Report the crime to the police or sheriff's department where you live. Give them as much documented evidence as possible. Make sure the police report lists the fraud accounts. Get a copy of the report. Keep the report number of your police report handy and give it to creditors and others who require verification of your case. Credit card companies and banks may require you to show the report in order to verify the crime. It is a violation of federal law (18 USC 1028) and the laws of many states (such as CA Penal Code 530.5) to assume someone's identity for fraudulent purposes.

5. Stolen checks. If you have had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to the appropriate check verification companies (see next page). 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 mother's maiden name). If your own checks are rejected at stores where you shop, contact the check verification company that the merchant uses.

6. ATM cards. If your ATM or debit card has been stolen or compromised, report it immediately. 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 SSN or your birth date. Monitor your account statement. You may be liable if fraud is not reported quickly.

7. Fraudulent change of address. If you suspect an identity thief has filed a change of your address with the Post Office or has used your mail to commit fraud, call the U.S. Post Office 800-275-8777 to obtain the phone number for your local Postal Inspector. Then notify the local Postmaster about the fraud. If you find out where fraudulent credit cards were sent, request to have all mail in your name forwarded from the fraudulent address to your correct address. You may also need to talk with the mail carrier.

8. Social Security Number (SSN) misuse. Call the Social Security Administration to report fraudulent use of your SSN. As a last resort, you might want to try to change your number. The SSA will only change it, however, if you fit their fraud victim criteria. Also order a copy of your Personal Earnings and Benefits Statement and check it for accuracy. The thief might be using your SSN for employment purposes.

9. Passports. Whether you have a passport or not, write the passport office to alert them to anyone ordering a passport fraudulently.

10. Phone service. 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 which must be used any time the account is changed.

Back to Top

11. Driver's license number 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.


13. Legal help. 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 or Legal Aid office to find an attorney who specializes in consumer law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Credit Billing Act.

14. Dealing with stress. Psychological counseling may help you deal with the stress and anxiety commonly experienced by victims. UCLA affiliates can contact Student Psychological Services at (310) 825-0768, or the Staff and Faculty Counseling Center at (310) 794-0245.

15. Don't give in. Do not pay any bill or portion of a bill which is a result of identity theft. Do not cover any checks which were written and/or cashed fraudulently. Do not file for bankruptcy. 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. Report such attempts to government regulators immediately. 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 or debts incurred 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 state Department of Justice and the FBI. Ask how to clear your name. CA Penal Code 530.6 provides a streamlined procedure for an identity theft victim to obtain a court’s determination of factual innocence upon presentation of a valid police report and other information, even before he/she has been wrongfully arrested or charged with a crime.

Equifax Reporting fraud: 800-525-6285 P.O. Box 105069, Atlanta, GA 30348. Ordering credit reports: (800) 685-1111

Experian Reporting fraud/ordering credit reports: 888-397-3742 P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013. Fax: (800) 301-7196.

Trans Union Reporting fraud: (800) 680-7289 P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834. Ordering credit reports: (800) 888-4213

Back to Top


Protecting Your Cards
The best protection against card fraud are to know where your cards are at all times and to keep them secure. For protection of ATM and debit cards that involve a Personal Identification Number (PIN), keep your PIN a secret. Don't use your address, birth date, phone or Social Security number as the PIN and do memorize the number.

For Credit and ATM/Debit Cards:

• Be cautious about disclosing your account number over the phone unless you know you're dealing with a reputable company.

• Never put your account number on the outside of an envelope or on a postcard.

• Draw a line through blank spaces on charge or debit slips above the total so the amount cannot be changed.

• Don't sign a blank charge or debit slip.

• Tear up carbons and save your receipts to check against your monthly statements.

• Cut up old cards - cutting through the account number before disposing of them.

• Open monthly statements promptly and compare them with your receipts, report mistakes or discrepancies as soon as possible to the special address listed on your statement for inquiries. Under the FCBA and the EFTA, the card issuer must investigate errors reported to them within 60 days of the date your statement was mailed to you.

• Keep a record, in a safe place separate from your cards, of your account numbers, expiration dates and the telephone numbers of each card issuer so you can report a loss quickly.

• Carry only one card.

• Don't carry your PIN in your wallet or purse or write it on your ATM or debit card.

• Never write your PIN on the outside of a deposit slip, an envelope, or other papers that could be easily lost or seen.

• Carefully check ATM or debit card transactions before you enter the PIN or before you sign the receipt; the funds for this item will be fairly quickly transferred out of your checking or other deposit account.

• Periodically check your account activity. This is particularly important if you bank online. Compare the current balance and recent withdrawals or transfers to those you've recorded, including your current ATM and debit card withdrawals and purchases and your recent checks. If you notice transactions you didn't make, or if your balance has dropped suddenly without activity by you, immediately report the problem to your card issuer. Someone may have co-opted your account information to commit fraud.

Back to Top

TO OPT OUT of pre-approved offers of credit for all three bureaus, call (888) 5OPTOUT. This establishes a two-year opt-out. For permanent opt-out status, put your request in writing.

FREE CREDIT REPORT. Remember, you are entitled to a free credit report if you are a victim of identity theft, if you have been denied credit, if you receive welfare benefits, or if you are unemployed.

Social Security Administration
To report fraud: (800) 269-0271. Personal Earnings and Benefits Statement orders: (800) 772-1213.

TO REMOVE your name from mail and phone lists: Direct Marketing Association, Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735. Telephone Preference Service, P.O. Box 9014, Farmingdale, NY 11735.

TO REPORT fraudulent use of your checks:

  • CheckRite: (800) 766-2748
  • Chexsystems: (800) 428-9623
  • CrossCheck: (800) 843-0760
  • Equifax: (800) 437-5120
  • International Check Services: (800) 631-9656
  • SCAN: (800) 262-7771
  • TeleCheck: (800) 710-9898

Buying a Registration Service
For an annual fee, companies will notify the issuers of your credit card and your ATM or debit card accounts if your card is lost or stolen. This service allows you to make only one phone call to report all card losses rather than calling individual issuers. Most services also will request replacement cards
on your behalf. Purchasing a card registration service may be convenient, but it's not required. If you decide to buy a registration service, compare offers. Carefully read the contract to determine the company's obligations and your liability. For example, will the company reimburse you if it fails to notify card issuers promptly once you've called in the loss to the service? If not, you could be liable for unauthorized charges or transfers.

California Department of Financial Institutions
The California Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) licenses, regulates and supervises state financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, saving and loan associations, transmitters of money abroad and issuers of travelers checks and payment instruments.


State of California: 530.5 PC—unauthorized use of personal identifying information.

Federal: Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act

Public Law 105-318, 112 Stat. 3007 (Oct. 30, 1998)

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) 15 USC § 1681 et seq

Back to Top


UCLA Crime Prevention Unit
Phone: (310) 825-6111
Fax: (310) 206-2550
Mail Code: 136408


601 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1364

Business Hours

Monday – Friday 8 a. m. to 5 p. m.

Station Hours

24 hours a day, 7 days a week