ID Theft detectives investigate crimes of stolen personal identifying information used to commit fraud. These ID Theft crimes include; check counterfeiting/fraud, credit card counterfeiting/fraud, and counterfeit ID manufacturing.
Using stolen credit cards and creating counterfeit credit cards has been on the rise for years. With the popularity of gift cards, ID thieves have taken advantage of the simplicity of utilizing them for fraud. Credit cards can be made with minimal special equipment and are easy to use.
Using stolen checking account information has never been easier, thanks to check writing software, inexpensive computers, and the internet. It takes very little knowledge and even less time to create and negotiate counterfeit checks.
Manufacturing fake ID's has been made easier with the internet, computer editing software, and computer hardware, all readily available to anyone. As state agencies institute security measures to complicate creating fake ID's, criminals quickly adapt and develop methods to replicate or defeat these safeguards.
Mail theft, dumpster diving, internet intrusions, and data mining are all methods used by ID thieves to access personal identifying information. Stolen personal information is traded and sold just like any goods.
The Sacramento Valley Hi Tech Crimes Task Force has noticed a recent increase in both internet and telephone scams, designed to extort money by catching you off guard and frightening you into paying the requested amount. Following are some of the more common schemes reported:
Arrest Warrant / Criminal Involvement Scam:
The caller states that there is a warrant out for your arrest, or that you have been identified in a criminal conspiracy that requires you to pay the bail or bond amount before Officers are sent to arrest you. Many times they will require payment in the form of gift cards or cryptocurrency such as bitcoin. Know that law enforcement will not contact you and request you pay any type of bail amount via telephone and typically, we don’t let you know we’re coming.
The caller states that you owe back taxes and unless they are paid in full, an arrest warrant will be issued for you. Again, payment is typically in the form of gift cards or bitcoin. Know that this is not how the IRS operates, and they do not accept bitcoin or gift cards for payment.
Unpaid Utilities Scam :
The caller states that you owe back payments on utility services and that all power will be shut off unless you immediately pay in bitcoin. Again, utility companies do not accept bitcoin other than outside of cash, check, or credit card.
There are a myriad of different scams, but they all carry a central theme. Their aim is to intimidate you into paying, and they can be very convincing. The caller is relentless, will not take no for an answer, and the number from which they call may even appear to be from the legitimate business or agency. Know that once you have sent gift cards or sent bitcoin, there is no recovery method, and unfortunately, your money is simply gone.
The best practice when receiving this type of call is to simply discontinue it, and if you have concerns about your accounts, contact the business or agency at the number you know and trust to verify there are no issues. You can also choose to report these scams to the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ and to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov . If you have been the victim of this type of fraud and sent funds, notify your financial institution and local law enforcement.
· Destroy or shred documents that include personal information before disposing of them.
· Password-protect your computer and other devices, and use anti-virus software.
· Use caution when sharing account numbers and personal information online or over the phone.
· Beware of phishing phone calls or emails where criminals ask you to provide your information to them.
Criminals will pose as banks, retail businesses or even people you know like family members, friends or coworkers.
· Monitor your credit card accounts and bank statements. Report fraudulent activity to your financial institution right away.
· Always clear or delete your personal information before donating or selling computers and other devices.
· Protect your social security number and only give it out when legally required to. Do not carry your Social Security Card on your person or in your car.
· Change Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords often. Avoid using easily available information connected to you. The easier it is for you to remember it, the easier it is for someone to guess or obtain it. Do not use the same PINs or passwords for multiple accounts. Once your PIN or password is compromised, your other accounts are vulnerable.
· Keep a copy or a scanned image of all credit cards, licenses, and other important identification and credit cards/documents in a safe place in case of physical theft or loss. Having a copy with key information available is important to be able to contact the appropriate institutions or agencies to report fraud or to cancel/replace these items.
· Obtain your free annual credit report and review it for accuracy. It can be obtained from Annual Credit Report.com at www.annualcreditreport.com.
· Consider initiating a fraud alert or placing a credit freeze on your credit report. A fraud alert is just that, an alert to creditors that fraud may be occurring. Your credit report can still be obtained as long as additional steps are taken by the requestor to confirm your identity. A credit freeze locks down your credit and prevents your credit report from being released until you unfreeze it. More information regarding these options is available through www.ftc.gov.
·Change Logins, PINs and Passwords right away. Start with the affected accounts. If you have used a common PIN or password across multiple account change them all.
· Report and close fraudulent accounts. Do not pay any charges that are fraudulent until dispute is resolved. Contact each institution where there is fraud and make a report with their security or fraud departments. Each institution has their own process or requirements when it comes to reporting fraud. If they do not require reports in writing, do so yourself so you have record of the report. Fraudulent accounts opened in your name and with your personal information, without your knowledge, should be closed. Accounts with fraudulent activity that are yours should be, at minimum, reassigned a new account number to prevent further fraud. Ask for a letter from each institution confirming accounts have been closed or disputed charges have been resolved. This will be necessary if fraudulent accounts or other negative reports remain or reappear on your credit report.
· Initiate a fraud alert or place a credit freeze on your credit report. These can help prevent further Identity Theft and fraud. More information regarding these options is available through www.ftc.gov or any of the three credit bureaus.
· Request your credit reports and double check them for any additional fraud other then what you already know about. Continue to check/monitor your credit report for at least a year to ensure no further fraud occurs.
· File a report with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.identitytheft.gov. A FTC Identity Theft Report helps prove to businesses that someone stole your identity, and makes it easier to correct problems caused by Identity Theft. You will receive a temporary password within 24 hours to log in and download your report.
· File a police report for Identity Theft. You may file a report with the local law enforcement agency where you reside and be provided a copy of the report. If the incident happened in a different jurisdiction, the report may be referred to the law enforcement agency where the incident occurred for further investigation.
· To file an Identity theft report with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, you may choose one of the following options:
1. Online at www.sacsheriff.com/Pages/Services/ReportCrime.aspx
2. In person at any Sheriff’s Station or Community Service Center. To find the nearest option, enter the street address or intersection where the crime occurred or your residence at www.sacsheriff.com/servicecenterlocator/
3. To have an officer dispatched call the non-emergency number at 916-874-5115.
· Document everything you do and get copies for your records; names, phone numbers, incident or claims numbers, copies of statements, copies of checks, etc. are all important. Law enforcement needs much of this information right away to begin an investigation. This will help the dispute process with your financial institutions as well as help with future criminal investigations, and further assist your recovery from being a victim of Identify Theft.
Criminal Identity Theft:
· Criminal Identity Theft occurs when someone who is cited or arrested for a crime uses another person's name and identifying information, resulting in a criminal record in that person's name.
· If you have been charged with a crime committed by another person using your identity or if your identity has been mistakenly associated with a record of criminal conviction, you will need to register your name into the California Identity Theft Registry. This process is explained in detail at www.oag.ca.gov/idtheft/criminal.
Annual Credit Report.com – www.annualcreditreport.com
California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General – www.oag.ca.gov
National Fraud Information Center – www.fraud.org
Identity Theft Resource Center - www.idtheftcenter.org
Fight Identity Theft – www.fightidentitytheft.com
Equifax – www.equifax.com
Experian – www.experian.com
TransUnion – www.transunion.com