The only thing an identity thief needs is your Social Security Number, your birth date or, sometimes, identifying information as basic as your address, driver’s license number and phone number.  

Some of the places identity thieves get this information include:
  • Purses/wallets
  • Personal information kept in your car (especially your glove box)
  • Receipts tossed in the trash
  • Overhearing conversations you have in public
  • Information stolen from your mailbox
  • Diverting your mail to another location by filling out a “change of address form”
  • Looking over your shoulder when you use your credit cards or the ATM 
Some thieves use technology to get your information:
  • “Phishing” or “pfarming” for information via e-mail
  • “Pretexting” phone calls where the caller needs you to give information over the phone
  • Computer hacking
But the most surprising might be when a dishonest employee snatches your personal information where you least expect it:
  • Physician offices
  • Attorney or accountant offices
  • Health insurance carriers
  • Stores where you shop or apply for credit cards
  • Restaurants
  • And once an identity theft has your information, they are then able to sell it to other crooks.

Even if you do everything possible to prevent criminals from stealing your identity, it can still happen to you.  Here are some common warning signs your identity has been stolen:
  • Your credit report shows unknown accounts
  • You are denied credit, or offered less favorable credit terms, for no apparent reason
  • You receive an actual credit card you did not apply for
  • You fail to receive bills or other mail (A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks or obtain additional personal information.

Identity Theft Title 18 Pa C.S. 4120
In Pennsylvania, a person commits the offense of identity theft of another person if they possess or use, through any means, identifying information of another person without the consent of that other person to further any unlawful purpose.

Under the law, a police report taken by a local, county, or state law enforcement agency by a person stating that their identifying information had been used without their consent shall be considered evidence that the information was used or possessed without the person's consent.

Unlawful Use of Computer - Title 18 Pa C.S. 7611
Under the law, a person commits the offense of unlawful use of computer if they intentionally or knowingly and without authorization gives or publishes a password, identifying code, personal identification number, or other confidential information about a computer, computer system and or database, world wide web (www) site, or telecommunication device.

Computer Trespass - Title 18 Pa C.S. 7615
Under the law, a person commits the offense of computer trespass if they knowingly and without authority or in excess of given authority use a computer or computer network with the intent to effect the creation and or alteration of a financial instrument or an electronic transfer of funds.

Forgery - Title 18 Pa C.S. 4101
Under the law, a person is guilty of forgery if they intentionally defraud or injure anyone by altering any writing of another without their authority or makes, completes, executes, authenticates, issues or transfers any writing so that it gives the appearance of being the act of another.

Bad Checks - Title 18 Pa C.S. 4105
Under the law, a person commits the offense of bad checks when they issue or pass a check or similar sight order for the payment of money, knowing that it will not be honored by the drawee.

Access Device Fraud - Title 18 C. S. 4106
Under the law, a person commits access device fraud if he or she uses a credit card, debit card, automated teller machine card, plate, code, account number, personal identification number or other means of account access to obtain or attempt to obtain property or services; or if they publish, make, sell, give, or transfer to another the means of account access knowing it is counterfeit, altered, incomplete or belongs to another person.

Act 94 of 2005

Under the law, notification of a computer breach would be required when an individual's name could be viewed in combination with other personal information, such as driver's license numbers, social security numbers or credit card numbers.  Consumers would be notified by various methods including letter, telephone call, e-mail, or through statewide media.  Following a breach, if an organization fails to notify the public as required by the law, a citizen victimized by identity theft can recover actual damages from the organization.


While no one can totally prevent this crime from occurring, the following information will offer some positive steps to decrease your risk of identity theft:


  • Do not carry all of your credit cards, Social Security card, passport, and birth certificate.  Carry them only when needed.  Reduce the number of credit cards you carry to a minimum.
  • Memorize your Social Security Number, passwords and PIN numbers—do not use your date of birth, home telephone number or last four numbers of your Social Security number.
  • When you obtain a new credit card, sign it immediately and add the words, “Photo ID Required.”
  • Keep your credit card in sight when it‘s being charged to prevent “skimming.”  (Skimming is when a sales clerk swipes your card through a machine designed to record your credit information. This machine is NOT the same as the machine the clerk will run it through to process your charge.)
  • Report all lost or stolen cards immediately to the credit card company, the three credit bureaus and your local police department.
  • Keep a list or photocopy of all your credit cards, bank account numbers and phone numbers of customer service and fraud departments in a secure place (not in your wallet), so you can quickly contact all of the companies if cards are lost or you suspect fraudulent activity.  YOU CAN EASILY DOCUMENT THIS INFORMATION ON THE IDENTITY THEFT ACTION PLAN THAT IS AVAILABLE ON THIS WEBPAGE.
  • Save and match credit card receipts with monthly statements. Check online accounts daily.
  • If you have applied for a new credit card and it has not arrived in a timely manner, call the financial institution involved.
  • Deposit mail in U.S. Postal Service collection boxes, rather than your own mailbox if you are located in an area where others can access your mailbox.
  • Don’t leave mail in your mailbox overnight or on weekends.
  • Shred unwanted documents with personal information including pre-approvals for credit cards received in the mail (cross cut shredder preferred). Criminals can retrieve these and activate the card.
  • Cancel unused credit cards and charge accounts. Destroy all old cards you no longer use.  Cut them so that the number is unrecognizable.
  • Shred all credit card receipts.
  • You can sign up for a credit monitoring service that alerts you of activity indicating possible identity theft.
  • Order and review credit reports annually from the three credit reporting agencies.,,
  • Don’t leave receipts behind at ATMs, on counters, at financial institutions, trash receptacles, or at gasoline pumps.
  • Memorize PIN numbers and cover the keypad with your free hand to prevent shoulder surfing.
  • Avoid ATMs that look unusual in any way–unusual signage, unusual devices (e.g. a camera angled to record your PIN number).
  • Use different PIN numbers for each account.
  • Beware of mail, telephone, or e-mail solicitations offering prizes, especially if personal information is requested.
  • Do not provide unnecessary information when ordering checks (SS number, phone number, driver’s license number).
  • Do not provide information in response to e-mails requesting updated account information.  Financial institutions will never request personal information via e-mail.
  • Install and keep anti-virus and spyware software updated.
  • When no longer needed, shred anything that has a signature, account number, Social Security number, or medical or legal information.
  • Do not leave purse, wallet, or packages in your vehicle.  Thieves are looking for credit card receipts in packages.
  • Do not leave your employer ID badge in your vehicle.
  • When traveling, use the hotel safe for any personal documents.
  • When Internet shopping, make sure the company is reputable and displays an approved security symbol.  Log out of the site when finished.
  • Never use a debit card or check card when shopping online.



The sooner you take action to clear your records, the better. That's why it's important to order your credit reports at least once a year. A credit report lists all bank and financial accounts under your name and provides other indications of whether someone has wrongfully opened or used any accounts in your name. Reviewing your credit report may help you catch discrepancies and errors that could indicate that you have fallen victim to a financial crime.

You can get one free credit report every year from each of the three national credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Contact the credit bureaus directly to request all three reports at once. Or, be your own no-cost credit-monitoring service by spreading out your requests, and ordering from a different bureau every four months. (More comprehensive monitoring services are also available from the credit bureaus for a fee.)

P.O. Box 740241,
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241.
To report fraud: (800) 525-6285 or write to address above.
To order a credit report:  (800) 685-1111.
To opt out of pre-approved offers of credit: (888) 567-8688.

P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013
To report fraud: (888) 397-3742 or write to address above.
To order a credit report:  (888) 397-3742.
To opt out of pre-approved offers of credit: (888) 567-8688.

Trans Union
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634
To report fraud: (800) 680-7289 or write to address above.
To order a credit report:  (800) 916-8800.
To opt out of pre-approved offers of credit: (888) 567-8688.

  • An incorrect address or incorrect place of employment.
  • Inactive accounts with activity. (ID thieves sometimes change the address on inactive accounts and use them as their own. Your credit report will show whether an account is open or closed and the activity that coordinates with each account.)
  • Accounts in your name that you have not authorized. A new account may be a warning sign that an identity thief has opened an account in your name.
  • Unexpected public records. Credit reports show court judgments, liens, foreclosures, evictions, and other public records. Pay attention to records that do not belong to you.
  • Unexpected negative information like past-due items. (Typically an identity thief will ring up a lot of charges and never pay them, leaving you with outstanding, unpaid debt.)
While there are no guarantees about avoiding identity theft, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk and minimize the damage if a problem occurs.

Contact one of the three credit reporting agencies and ask for a fraud alert to be placed on your credit report.  You only need to call one agency; it will automatically notify the other two agencies. 
  • 1-800-525-6285
  • 1-888 397-3742
  • 1-800-680-7289
If you have discovered that someone fraudulently opened new accounts in your name, contact the financial institution that opened them and cancel them.  If you don't know how to reach the financial institution, the credit bureaus should be able to provide that information to you.

  1. File a report with your local police department.
  2. Contact all of the financial institutions that issue your bank cards, credit cards and checking/savings accounts to ensure that there are no fraudulent charges on your accounts.  Ask them to send you their company's fraud dispute form, which you will need to fill out, even if you speak to someone on the phone.
  3. You will also need to provide them with a copy of your police report.
If your driver's license or state-issued identification card is missing, contact PennDOT at 1-800-932-4600 and also fill out a Misuse Form by going to:
If your Passport is missing, contact the United States Department of State at 1-202-955-0430 or go to:
If your Social Security card is missing, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or online at
If your medical/insurance cards are missing, contact your health insurance company.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, which tracks incidents of identity theft.  1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338).
  • Also, complete an ID Theft Affidavit at
For crimes involving your mail, contact your local post office. The number can be found by going to or looking in the blue pages of your phone book under "United States Government, Postal Service."

Contact the arresting or citing law enforcement agency (i.e., the police or sheriff’s department that originally arrested the person using your identity, or the court agency that issued the warrant for the arrest).  You’ll need to file an impersonation report to confirm your identity and the police department may take a full set of your fingerprints, your photograph, and copies of any photo identification documents you have including your driver’s license, passport, and Visa.

The law enforcement agency should then recall any warrants and issue a “clearance letter” or certificate of release if you were arrested/booked. Keep this document with you at all times in case you’re wrongly arrested. Also, ask the law enforcement agency to file the record of the follow-up investigation establishing your innocence with the district attorney’s office and the court where the crime took place. Ask that the “key name” or “primary name” be changed from your name to the imposter’s name and that your name is noted only as an alias.

There are two types of fraud alerts: an initial alert, and an extended alert.

An initial alert stays on your credit report for at least 90 days. You may ask that an initial fraud alert be placed on your credit report if you suspect you have been, or are about to be, a victim of identity theft. An initial alert is appropriate if your wallet has been stolen or if you've been taken in by a "phishing" scam. When you place an initial fraud alert on your credit report, you're entitled to one free credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies.
In addition, the consumer reporting companies will remove your name from marketing lists for pre-screened credit offers for five years unless you ask them to put your name back on the list before then.
To place either of these alerts on your credit report, or to have them removed, you will be required to provide appropriate proof of your identity: that may include your Social Security number, name, address and other personal information requested by the consumer reporting company.

When a business sees the alert on your credit report, they must verify your identity before issuing you credit. As part of this verification process, the business may try to contact you directly. This may cause some delays if you're trying to obtain credit. To compensate for possible delays, you may wish to include a cell phone number, where you can be reached easily, in your alert. Remember to keep all contact information in your alert current.