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Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Victims come from all walks of life from everyday people to celebrities like Tiger Woods and Rosie O'Donnell.

The Federal Trade Commission's identity theft hotline reports receiving more than 1,000 calls a week. In California, nearly 800 victims in Los Angeles County alone reported having someone using their identity while committing a crime or attempting to avoid prosecution.

It is a felony in California to use the personal identifying information of another person without the authorization of that person for any unlawful purpose including to obtain credit, goods, services, or medical information [Penal Code section 530.5 et. seq.].

California operates five regional Hi-Tech Crimes Task Forces to investigate and prosecute identity theft.

The Attorney General's Office maintains an Identity Theft Registry to assist victims who are wrongfully identified as criminals. Through the ID Theft data base, law enforcement and anyone else designated by the victim to have access would be notified that the criminal history is not his or hers. To learn more, visit the ID Theft Registry web page here, or call toll-free: (888) 880-0240.

To help protect against identity theft, California enacted a new law requiring businesses and government agencies beginning July 1, 2003, to notify consumers if hackers gain entry to computers that contain unencrypted personal information such as credit card numbers, pass codes needed for use of personal accounts, Social Security numbers or driver's license numbers.

Under the state law (AB 1386-Peace/CHAPTER 915, Stats of 2002.), notices must be given immediately following discovery of the privacy breach unless a law enforcement agency determines the notice would impede a criminal investigation. The notice can be by letter or e-mail. If more than 500,000 individuals are involved or the cost of giving notice would exceed $250,000, an alternate notice may be used. The alternate notice must be by e-mail when available, conspicuous posting on the company or agency web page and notification to major statewide media. Any customer injured by a violation of the law may file civil suit to recover damages.

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