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A photo of Cal U students participating in a field experience.A photo of Cal U students participating in a field experience.

Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when someone uses another person’s identifying information such as name, Social Security number, or date of birth to commit an unlawful activity. Thieves can obtain personal information from many sources such as lost or stolen credit cards, Social Security cards, checkbooks, or health insurance cards. To get you started, UTech Services has provided some helpful tips to prevent identity theft.

Protect your identity by using common sense:

  • Don't carry your Social Security card with you.
  • Don’t give your PIN or Social Security number to anyone.
  • Know what information you’re putting on your social networking sites. Learn about how to stay safe on social networks. 
  • Shred anything containing your personal information, credit card information, or bank account numbers before putting it in the trash or recycle bins. This includes unused credit card offers.
  • Beware of shoulder-surfers: people who look over your shoulder at the ATM to obtain your PIN number or other personal information. 

Keep documents and statements in a safe place.

  • Write down all of your current credit cards and store the list in a safe place so that you can contact the correct companies if they get stolen.
  • Monitor account activity closely.
  • Use only secure websites for credit card transactions.
  • Never disclose personal information over the phone or Internet with companies or people you do not know. Tell anyone who calls asking for your Social Security, credit card, or bank account numbers that you don’t give that information over the phone and that they can contact you by mail. Also, call back the company and verify that it was they who contacted you and asked for your information.
  • Opt out from pre-approved credit card offers. Identity thieves can use them to set up fraudulent accounts in your name. To put a stop to having pre-screened credit offers mailed to you, call 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or go online to
  • Don't leave your purse or wallet unattended anywhere: a party, lunch table, bathroom, etc. Use a zippered purse to prevent pickpocketing.
  • Never open up e-mails from people or companies you do not know.

What to Do if it Happens to You?

Replacing Credit, Debit, and ATM Cards:

Report the loss or theft of your credit, ATM, or debit cards to the card issuers as quickly as possible. Many companies have toll-free numbers and 24-hour service to deal with such emergencies. You will need to know your account number and be able to tell them when you noticed your card was missing. Make a note of the date you first reported the loss.

Dealing with Credit Card Loss or Fraudulent Charges:

The government provides protection for a credit card holder in the event that his/her card is compromised:

  • If you report the loss of your credit card before anyone uses it, the card issuer cannot hold you responsible for any unauthorized charges. Also, if the loss involves your credit card number but not the card itself, you have no liability for unauthorized use.
  • If you notice unauthorized charges on your statement after they've occurred, you still have protection. As long as you report the charges within 60 days of receiving your statement, you are only liable for a maximum of $50 —regardless of the amount charged.

Dealing with ATM or Debit Card Loss or Fraudulent Transfers:

  • If you report the loss within two business days after you realize your card is missing, you will not be responsible for more than $50 of unauthorized use.
  • If you don't report the loss within two business days, but do report it within 60 days, your liability is capped at $500.
  • If you report the loss after 60 days, you may be at risk for the complete loss of all assets in your account.

Reporting and Replacing Your Missing Driver’s License:

If your driver's license has been lost or stolen, report the incident to your local police department's nonemergency line. Be sure to get a copy of the report.

To replace your driver’s license you will need at least one proof of identity and pay a fee. Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles of the state that issued your driver's license for office locations and additional information.

Reporting Your Passport as Lost or Stolen:

Once you report your passport as lost or stolen, it becomes invalid and can no longer be used for travel — even if you find it. You can find more information about reporting your passport as lost or stolen or replacing your passport at the U.S. Department of State website.