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Identity Theft

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is the act of illegally using another individual’s personally identifying information to commit a fraud or other crimes. Identity theft is a very serious problem and may cause you to lose out on job opportunities or be rejected for borrowing loans.
 

Types of Fraud

There are many ways identity thieves can use your stolen information to commit fraud. These different types of fraud include:

  • Credit card fraud

  • Phone or utilities fraud

  • Bank or finance fraud

  • Government documents fraud

  • Other fraud

Each of these, if committed against you, can result in serious financial and even legal issues for you.
 

Warning Signs of Identity Theft

The best way to find out if your identity has been compromised is to monitor your accounts and bank statements every month, and to check your credit report frequently.

Here are some signs that you may be a victim of identity theft:

  • You receive information regarding credit you never applied for

  • You receive statements from lenders and/or businesses you never contacted

  • Missing statements from bills you should pay

  • Missing mail in general

  • Credit card purchases/account withdrawals you don’t remember

  • Claims you owe money for an account you never opened

Immediate Steps to Repair Identity Theft

If you find that you are indeed a victim of identity theft, there are a few measures you should take right away to minimize the damage you might sustain from any fraud committed using your stolen information.

  • Place an initial fraud alert

  • Order your credit reports

  • Create an identity theft report

There are three national credit-reporting companies that manage records of your credit history, so placing an initial fraud alert with one of them will alert the others and make it harder for the identity thief to open new accounts in your name. Checking your credit report can also allow you to scan for any accounts or credit activity you did not authorize and gives you time to dispute these errors. Finally, creating an identity theft report will help you deal with credit reporting companies, debt collectors, and businesses that unknowingly allowed the identity theft to commit fraud using your information. 
 

Other Steps to Take

Here are other important steps you should take to further prevent any more information from being misused:

  • Contact bank(s) & credit card issuers

  • Notify appropriate authorities about lost passport/driver’s license

  • Check your mailbox

  • Maintain a written chronology

Limited Liabilities

Under most state laws, you are not liable for any debts incurred on fraudulent new accounts opened in your name without your permission. Your liability for unauthorized use of your credit is limited to $50. For the most part, if you are quick to notify all relevant institutions about any fraud that has occurred or may occur, your losses will be limited to a reasonable amount.

Learn More

To schedule a one-on-one appointment with a Bears for Financial Success peer mentor, email bffs@berkeley.edu or request a financial literacy presentation for a student group.