Identity Theft Resources

What is Identity Theft?

Identity (ID) theft happens when someone steals your personal information to commit fraud or other crimes. 

The identity thief may use your personal information to apply for credit cards, file taxes, or get medical services. These acts can damage your credit status, and cost you time and money to restore your good name.

Identity theft can also:

  • Damage your reputation
  • Impact your finances and damage your credit score
  • Limit your ability to make financial decisions while a fraud is being investigated
  • Loss of time and energy investigating, resolving, and recovering from identity theft

How Does It Happen?

Criminals use to several techniques to obtain your personal information, like:

  • Recovering your lost or stolen wallet contents

  • Searching your trash or recycling for un-shredded documents containing your information

  • Emailing, texting, or using phone scams to steal your passwords or credentials

  • Watching you enter credentials (PIN at ATM, passwords on laptop, phone, etc.)

  • Sending phishing emails to get you to click on a suspicious link to install malicious software

  • Creating fake websites (link bank or shopping sites) to collect your personal data

  • Using “skimming devices” at cash registers, ATMs and credit card readers to record credentials

  • Gathering personal information from public profiles in social media, or real social media “quizzes” or surveys

  • Carrying out a data breach (intentionally stealing personal information from companies or organizations)

Types of Identity Theft

Financial Identity Theft

Financial Identity Theft is the use of another person’s financial assets. If you are a victim, it may hurt your chances for future loans and/or lower your credit score.

Examples include:
Counterfeit credit card purchases, loan and credit card applications, filing for taxes/refunds, unemployment or benefits support, or bankruptcy, etc.

What to look for:
Unfamiliar credit card purchases, odd/new entries on your credit report, debt collection calls, etc.

Medical Identity Theft

Medical Identity Theft is the use of another person’s information to receive medical services, drugs and/or insurance coverage. If you are a victim, it may prevent you from getting future insurance coverage or medical care.

Examples include: 
Medical bills in your name for services you did not receive, corruption of your medical record with the record of the imposter. 

What to look for:
Unusual or new insurance claims/charges or errors in your medical record.

Criminal Identity Theft

Criminal Identity Theft is the use of another individual’s identity (impersonation) when arrested or questioned by law enforcement. If you are the victim it may lead to criminal charges or a failed background check.

Examples include: 
Criminal records or charges may be filed in your name (warrants, fines) rather than the actual perpetrator.

What to look for: 
Unexpected court summons, suspension of driver’s license, issues with background checks.

Child Identity Theft

Child Identity Theft is the misuse of personal information associated with a minor (anyone under the age of 18). Children are vulnerable to ID theft as they may not notice it until they are adults. Victims may experience a credit history. Visit the FTC's page on Child ID Theft for more information. 

Examples Include: 
Illegal use of the minor’s name and social security number obtain credit or a loan, receive an identification card or Driver’s License, open a financial account, etc.,  

What to look for: 
Unrecognized entries on a minor’s credit report or bill received in the minor’s name.

Social Identity Theft

Social Identify Theft is the use of an individual’s name and/or photos to create a fake social media account. If you are a victim your reputation or professional career may be damaged.

Examples include: 
False statements, photos, or opinions shared under your name or misuse of platform’s communication (DMs) to phish or exploit others in your contacts list.

What to look for: 
Social media accounts not created by you, but with your name/photos that look nefarious, notifications from friends/acquaintances of unexpected social media contact in your name.

Ways to Protect Yourself

  • Limit sharing of personal information (birthdate, passwords, financial account numbers, Social Security Number, driver license number, etc.,) in person, over the phone, on forms, or on social media. Do not share your Social Security Number or other unique identifiers unless mandatory.

  • Keep your Social Security Number and other unique identifiers (like your passport number or Driver’s License number) safe.

  • Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards. This can prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.

  • Avoid use of public wi-fi network where possible, or use a virtual private network (VPN) if you use public wi-fi.

  • Create complex passwords, use a password manager (UC Berkeley offers free LastPass Premium), secure passwords in a safe place.

  • Monitor credit reports annually. See the Federal Trade Commission’s “Free Credit Reports” website for information on obtaining a free credit report from the nationwide credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once every 12 months.

  • Place a credit or security freeze on your credit. Freeze your credit files with Equifax, Experian, Innovis, TransUnion, and the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange for free. Credit freezes prevent someone from applying for and getting approved for a credit account or utility services in your name.

Reporting Identity Theft

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, take the following actions as soon as possible:

  • Contact the above mentioned credit reporting agencies and request a current copy of your credit report and place a fraud alert. The agency you contact must notify the others and all will place an alert on their versions of your report. You may request a new fraud alert when a previous alert expires. For victims of identity theft, an extended fraud alert will protect your credit for a longer period of time and a fraud alert allows creditors to get a copy of your credit report as long as they take steps to verify your identity.  

  • Request a security credit freeze with each agency. A credit freeze locks down your credit.

  • Contact banks, organizations or companies where you believe identity theft has occurred and inform them of the fraudulent activity.

  • Report your suspected identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at identitytheft.gov

  • Report expected fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ReportFraud.ftc.gov

  • Continue to monitor your credit reports, financial statements, and billing statements for additional fraudulent activity.

Recovering From and Repairing Identity Theft

  • Work to with banks, organization, or companies to close fraudulent accounts established in your name and remove fraudulent charges from your existing accounts

  • Work with credit monitoring agencies to remove fraudulent accounts from credit reports

  • Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s “Recovery Steps to Take” for a more extensive and targeted list of action steps

Helpful Resources: