While no one can totally prevent the crime of identity theft from occurring to you, there are some positive steps to take which will decrease your risk.
What is the Law in Washington State?
(1) No person may knowingly obtain, possess, use, or transfer a means of identification or financial information of another person, living or dead, with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any crime.
(2)(a) Violation of this section when the accused or an accomplice uses the victim's means of identification or financial information and obtains an aggregate total of credit, money, goods, services, or anything else of value in excess of one thousand five hundred dollars in value shall constitute identity theft in the first degree. Identity theft in the first degree is a class B felony.
(b) Violation of this section when the accused or an accomplice uses the victim's means of identification or financial information and obtains an aggregate total of credit, money, goods, services, or anything else of value that is less than one thousand five hundred dollars in value, or when no credit, money, goods, services, or anything of value is obtained shall constitute identity theft in the second degree. Identity theft in the second degree is a class C felony.
(3) A person who violates this section is liable for civil damages of five hundred dollars or actual damages, whichever is greater, including costs to repair the victim's credit record, and reasonable attorneys' fees as determined by the court.
(4) In a proceeding under this section, the crime will be considered to have been committed in any locality where the person whose means of identification or financial information was appropriated resides, or in which any part of the offense took place, regardless of whether the defendant was ever actually in that locality.
(5) The provisions of this section do not apply to any person who obtains another person's driver's license or other form of identification for the sole purpose of misrepresenting his or her age.
(6) In a proceeding under this section in which a person's means of identification or financial information was used without that person's authorization, and when there has been a conviction, the sentencing court may issue such orders as are necessary to correct a public record that contains false information resulting from a violation of this section.
How do thieves get my information?
They go through your trashcan, looking for straight cut or unshredded papers.
They steal your mail or your wallet.
They listen in on conversations you have in public.
They trick you into giving them the information over the telephone or by email.
They buy the information either on the Internet or from someone who might have stolen it.
They steal it from a loan or credit application form you filled out or from files at a hospital, bank, school or business that you deal with. They may have obtained it from dumpsters outside of such companies.
They get it from your computer, especially those without firewalls.
They may be a friend or relative or someone who works for you who has access to your information.
How can I prevent becoming an identity theft victim?
While no one can totally prevent this crime from occurring, here are some positive steps to take which will decrease your risk.
Check your credit reports once a year from all three of the credit reporting agencies listed below.
Guard your Social Security number. When possible, don't carry your Social Security card with you. Don't put your SSN or drivers license number on your checks.
Guard your personal information. You should never give your Social Security number to anyone unless they have a good reason for needing it. Watch for people who may try to eavesdrop and overhear the information you give out orally.
Carefully destroy papers you throw out, especially those with sensitive or identifying information. A crosscut paper shredder works best.
Be suspicious of telephone solicitors. Never provide information unless you have initiated the call.
Use a locked mailbox to send and receive all mail.
Reduce the number of preapproved credit card offers you receive -888-5OPT OUT (they will ask for your SSN)
What should I do if I become an identity theft victim?
Call the three credit reporting agencies. Place a fraud alert on your Social Security number and have them send you copies of your reports. Look them over carefully for any fraudulent activity or inaccuracies.
Call the police where you live. They must take a report and give you a copy.
Call and write all the creditors who have opened fraudulent accounts. Tell them this is a case of ID theft.