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Identity Theft in California

Did you know that, as a resident of California, you have one of the highest chances in the nation of becoming a victim of identity theft? In a typical year, more than 42,000 Californians report having their identity stolen, at a rate of 114.2 people for every 100,000 individuals in the state.

Criminals use identity theft in a variety of ways in California. One of the most visible is credit card theft: taking your credit card number (through "phishing", skimmers, or a host of other ways) and using it to rack up purchases in your name. While many credit card companies actively monitor your habits and notify you if there is suspicious activity, many victims of identity theft have had to spend a significant amount of time and money to prove that purchases made with their cards were fraudulent.

Another common use of stolen information is for health care: from knee replacement to liposuction, a stolen social security card and driver's license can give thieves access to medical care in your name. Finally, the IRS has reported an increase in tax-related identity theft, as thieves use social security numbers to file a fraudulent tax return, often early in the year, to claim a refund. Taxpayers in California often aren't aware of this kind of criminal activity until they go to file their own return and find out that one was already submitted for that tax year.

As a Californian, what can you do to better safeguard your personal information and prevent identity theft, or repair the damage quickly if it should occur? To reduce your risk, don't make a habit of having your social security number with you: both social security cards and documents that have that information should be left in a safe place at home whenever possible. Check your credit report every year, and if you see any unrecognized accounts, file a report both with your local police department and with the Federal Trade Commission. Finally, look into the many reputable Identity Theft Protection services available in your area, as they can help monitor your credit information and notify you immediately in case of any suspicious activity.

 

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Identity Theft In The News

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