Identity Theft Prevention and Victim Information

March 6, 2002

"Identity Theft Prevention and Victim Information"
Los Angeles: The crime of Identity Theft is on the rise and has become a significant problem for the LAPD and for people who reside in the City of Los Angeles. This is partially due to an increase in the number of reported identity theft incidents, and in the level of fear within the community. Additionally, the identity theft issue continues to receive considerable media attention. To more effectively coordinate identity theft investigations, the LAPD now investigates these crimes through their Financial Crimes Division. Anyone victimized by identity theft is encouraged to contact the LAPD or their local law enforcement agency to report the incident.
It is important to remember that the victim of identity theft is a person whose identity has been fraudulently assumed by another with the intent to obtain credit, goods, or services without the victim’s consent. No financial loss is necessary. Identity theft includes the criminal assimilation of someone’s name, address, credit card information, driver’s license, social security number and other personal data. Criminals use this information to impersonate their victims, spending as much money as they can in as short a time as possible before moving on to impersonate someone else.
The victims of credit and banking fraud will usually be liable for no more than the first $50.00 of the loss. In many cases, victims will not be required to pay any part of the loss. However, victims are supposed to notify financial institutions within two days of learning of the loss, although this is often waived.
Even though victims are usually not required to pay their imposters’ bills, they are often left with a bad credit report and must spend months and even years regaining their financial health. In the meantime, they have difficulty writing checks, obtaining loans, renting apartments, and even getting hired. Stealing wallets used to be the best way identity thieves obtained credit card numbers and other pieces of identification. Now more sophisticated means are commonly used:

Accessing your credit report fraudulently by posing as an employer, loan officer, or landlord and ordering a copy;

Stealing mail from your mailbox to obtain newly issued credit cards, bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, or tax information; and

Dumpster diving in your trash containers for discarded credit card and loan applications.

When identity theft occurs, you need to act quickly, know what to do, who to contact, and fully understand your rights under the law. Identity theft exerts great emotional distress on its victims. Damage containment in each fraud case depends on how deeply the imposter has invaded your personal, professional and financial life. There are many preparatory actions one can take to prevent identity theft.
For additional information or to obtain a copy of crime prevention circulars, contact the Crime Prevention Unit at 213-485-3143, or visit the "Crime Prevention Tips" section on our website.
This press release was prepared by Sergeant John Amendola, Crime Prevention Unit.