Identity Theft

Definition
"A person commits the crime of identity theft if the person, with the intent to deceive or to defraud, obtains, possesses, transfers, creates, utters or converts to the person's own use the personal identification of another person."  ORS 165.800(1)

This "personal identification" includes, but is not limited to:

  • Your social security card or number
  • Your driver's license or number
  • Your name, date of birth, address, telephone number, or e-mail address
  • Your account number at a financial institution, or a credit card account number or PIN
  • Your signature, or a copy of it or
  • Any document which contains any of the above information

How identity thieves get your personal information:

  • They steal wallets and purses containing your identification and credit and bank cards.
  • They steal your mail, including your bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, telephone calling cards and tax information.
  • They complete a "change of address form" to divert your mail to another location.
  • They rummage through your trash, or the trash of businesses, for personal data.
  • They use personal information such as credit card account numbers or your social security number that you share on the Internet.

The methods of obtaining your personal ID vary and are only limited by the craftiness of each identity thief.

How identity thieves use your personal information:

  • They call your credit card issuer and, pretending to be you, ask to change the mailing address on your account.  The imposter then runs up charges on your account.  Because your bills are being sent to the new address, it may take some time before you realize there is a problem.
  • They open a new credit card account, using your name, date of birth and SSN.  When they use the credit card and don't pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report.
  • They establish phone or wireless service in your name.
  • They open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on the account.
  • They counterfeit checks or debit cards and drain your bank account.
  • They buy cars by taking out auto loans in your name.

What to do if you are a victim of Identity Theft:

FIRST:
Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus (the numbers are listed on the Identity Theft Resources page).  Request that a "fraud alert" be placed in your file, including a statement that creditors should get your permission before opening any new accounts in your name.  At the same time, ask the credit bureaus for copies of your credit reports.  They must give you a free copy if you believe it to be inaccurate because of fraud.  Review the report carefully to make sure no additional fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or unauthorized changes made to your existing accounts.  In a few months, order new copies of your reports to verify your corrections and changes, and to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred. 

SECOND:
Contact the creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.  Ask to speak with someone in the security or fraud department, and tell them what has happened.  Record who you spoke with and when; and ask them for their direct phone number.  Finally, follow up your conversation with a letter.  Following up with a letter is one of the procedures spelled out in the Fair Credit Billing Act for resolving errors on credit billing statements, including charges that you have not made.

THIRD:
File a report with your local law enforcement agency, or the agency located where the identity theft occurred.  Keep copies of this report because some creditors may want proof.

Other Tips:

  • If you had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, cancel your checking and savings accounts and obtain new account numbers, or change banks.
  • Consider changing your driver's license number if someone is using yours as identification on bad checks.  Contact DMV to see if a license was issued in your name.  Put a fraud alert on your license.
  • Shred junk mail and personal documents before discarding or recycling.  To remove your name from pre-screened credit card mailing lists, call 1-888-567-8688.
  • If your mailbox does not have a lock, consider having your mail sent to a secured post office box, or for rural delivery, consider installing a locking mailbox.

The District Attorney's Office may be able to assist a victim of identity theft in identifying the proper agency to contact when a criminal conviction erroneously shows up on an employment or apartment background check.  If the error is determined from a fingerprint check, the Oregon State Police Identification Bureau must be contacted.