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Public Safety | Identity Theft

Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when an unauthorized individual acquires some of your personal information — your bank and/or credit card numbers, your social security number (SSN), or even something as simple as your name, address, and telephone number – and uses it to commit fraud or theft.

Personal information can be obtained by:

  • Stealing wallets, purses, or mail containing your identification, and credit or bank cards.
  • Using personal information you share and they obtained on the Internet.
  • Looking through your trash, or the trash of businesses, for personal data
  • Using false pretenses to obtain information from you. (For example, a thief may get your personal information from a survey or social networking site.)
  • Posing as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a legitimate need for, and a legal right to, your credit report.
  • Obtaining your business or personnel records at work or in your home.
  • Using a method called “skimming,” where a specific device stores your credit/debit card information when it is processed.

Personal information can be used to:

  • Open a new credit card account, or establish phone, internet, or other utility services in your name. When they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report.
  • Open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on that account.
  • File for bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they’ve incurred under your name, or to avoid eviction.
  • Counterfeit checks or debit cards, and drain your bank account.
  • Give your name to the police during an arrest. If they’re released from police custody but don’t show up for their court date, an arrest warrant is issued in your name.
  • Obtain a fake ID or driver’s license, take out a loan, or obtain a job using your name and information.

Identity theft can result in:

  • Being refused loans (car, housing, education) and employment opportunities.
  • Being denied credit cards.
  • Being arrested for crimes they did not commit.
  • Taking considerable time and effect to correct fraudulent accounts and credit reports.
  • Having emotional and physical reactions to the stress of having their identity stolen and used fraudulently.
  • Feeling angry, helpless, and violated.
  • Finding it hard to reestablish trust, or become hyper-vigilant about guarding their personal information. These feelings are normal. Talking to a trusted friend or counselor can help a victim cope with these feelings.

Victims of identity theft should Report Identity Theft.


Contact the Department of Public Safety at 202-884-9111.

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