Identity Theft in California
The repercussions of identity theft can range from embarrassment to serious legal and financial injury. Assess your risk, safeguard your identity, and hire an attorney in California if your identity gets stolen.
The US Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of California reported that a Fresno, CA woman was indicted for bank fraud and identity theft in a year-long scheme. Specifically, the woman stole debit cards, checks, identity documents, and banking formation to make fraudulent purchases and open unauthorized lines of credit. In fact, it is alleged these actions caused losses of at least $250,000. If convicted of bank fraud, the woman faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. If convicted of aggravated identity theft, she faces a sentence of two years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is one of the most common crimes in the modern world. Criminals are constantly finding new ways to steal your information. These crimes involve the fraudulent use of components of your identity, such as SSNs, driver’s licenses, or credit cards.
Even before you become aware of any theft, thieves may have already used your identity to open new financial accounts without your knowledge. Other criminal actions include faking tax returns, fraudulent purchases, and receiving or stealing medical care under your insurance. While dealing with customer service departments for a solution, a qualified California attorney can fast-track the process. In some circumstances, taking the step of seeking legal help is necessary to get the attention of companies and recover your losses.
How Does Identity Theft Happen in California?
Identity theft can happen in many ways. Hackers are constantly advancing their data-stealing techniques. However, there are some long-standing causes of identity theft that every consumer should be aware of:
- Data Breaches – Companies often store personal financial information for subscriptions, auto-pay, or express checkout. Hackers can break into these companies’ servers and extract the personal information of thousands of people at a time.
- ATM or Card Skimmers – Hackers can place devices called skimmers that read your card’s information when you use it. The most common places for skimmers to are in ATM devices or at gas pumps. Some have even found their way into convenience stores and pharmacies.
- Digital Malware and Viruses – Hackers can access your information through phishing, fake websites, and file-sharing networks. You should always be vigilant when receiving emails from questionable accounts or when browsing online. Often, hackers will disguise their phishing attempts as recognizable brands or platforms.
- Physical Theft – Thieves can access your personal information by stealing your mail, purse, or wallet.
- Change Of Address – Another creative way hackers can steal your information is by changing your address with different services you use. Once the mail reroutes to the new address, they can access the information that would normally be sent to your real address.
- Public WiFi – While public WiFi networks are convenient, they rarely encrypt the connection. Most competent hackers can break into public networks and remotely access devices connected to them. Only use public WiFi networks if absolutely necessary, and always with a VPN.
What Are Some Identity Theft Laws?
Under California Code, it is a crime to willfully obtain personal identifying information of another person and use it for any unlawful purpose. Unlawful purpose includes obtaining or attempting to obtain, without consent, credit, goods, services, real property, or medical information. The perpetrator can face fines and up to one year in a county jail. They can also face imprisonment in the state prison.
How Can I Detect Identity Theft?
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if your identity has become compromised. However, if you are vigilant with your passwords and online presence, you can become aware of several signs that point to identity theft. Be on the lookout for the following:
- Any questionable activity you don’t recognize regarding your existing accounts
- Deposits, purchases, credit alerts, etc.
- No longer receiving mail at your primary address
- Calls or letters from debt collectors about debts you never personally incurred
- Unfamiliar charges on your accounts or new accounts you never opened
- Bills for services you never received, such as medical care
- Letter from the IRS regarding duplicate tax returns in your name
- News from a company you have done business about a data breach
- A sudden and unexplained drop or increase in your credit score
How Do I Recover From Identity Fraud in California?
The first thing you can do is immediately contact your financial institutions and suspend any compromised cards. Some companies also allow you to block any further usage directly from their app.
The next step would be to contact the institutions where you have discrepancies. If you see suspicious transactions, reach out to the places or services where they occurred. Additionally, close any accounts or cancel any subscriptions that may have become compromised.
The California Courts recommend contacting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if you have been a victim of identity theft in California. Under the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, the FTC is responsible for receiving and processing identity theft complaints. In addition, the California Identity Theft Registry is available to help victims of identity theft who are wrongly linked to crimes. The Registry provides a centralized place where law enforcement can confirm that a mistaken criminal history was created in your name.
You should also consider a credit monitoring account if you don’t already have one. These services provide oversight on your credit accounts and alert you when there is suspicious activity. You can either temporarily freeze the account or close it out entirely. An experienced California attorney can also help you right some of the wrongs you encounter along the way.
Identity Theft Protections
Always take proactive steps to protect yourself from identity theft. To many, some of these steps may seem like common sense. However, it’s surprising how often people disclose personal information without a second thought. We recommend you take the following precautions to avoid someone stealing your identity:
- Do not respond to any unsolicited requests asking for personal information.
- Do not click any suspicious links in unsolicited emails.
- Enable all security and two-step verification protocols on your electronic devices.
- Use complex passwords and change them frequently.
- Install any firewall and malware detection software on your electronic devices.
- Properly shred or tear up any documents with personal or financial information before discarding them in the trash.
Work with an Experienced Local Lawyer in California
Are you facing financial or legal complications related to an identity theft issue in California? If that’s the case, we can help connect you with the right attorney to help you resolve these problems, before they spiral out of control. We can even help you connect with an attorney across California state lines.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!