How to Report Fraud in California & Stay Safe

Reporting scams is the first step to protecting yourself and others—whether you fell for a phishing scam, got scammed while selling an item in California, or had your credit card stolen, report it to the right people.
Updated 1 December 2021
How to Report Fraud in California & Stay Safe
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United States Scam & Fraud Statistics 2020

$3.3 billion total fraud losses
4.7 million fraud reports

1.4 million reports of identity theft

Source: 2019-20 Consumer Sentinel Report

Sections on this page
  1. Types of Scams in California
  2. Report Fraud in California: Key Contacts
  3. Report a California Business
  4. Report Unemployment Fraud
  5. Hiring a Lawyer in California
  6. Identity Theft in California
  7. Frequently Asked Questions

If you're living in California and have fallen victim to a scam, here are all of the resources you'll need to recover and report it. Although there's no guarantee that you'll be able to recoup your losses, there is help available. 

Types of Scams in California

Californians are no strangers to scams, being targeted by hackers, phishers, credit card thieves, identity thieves, and scam callers. Some of the most common scams to be aware of when living in California include:

Report Fraud in California: Key Contacts

If you were scammed by an individual versus a business, for example, if you paid for something on Craigslist, but you never received the item, you can report the scam to:

Report Fraud to the California Attorney General

Scams can be reported to your local Attorney General's office or to the California office by calling (800) 952-5341.

You should also notify any of the following that applies to your situation:

  • The company that was being impersonated.
  • The website or app you used.
  • Your financial institution or bank. 

After falling for a scam in California, it's essential to report it to the right people and agencies to help you recover your losses, educate others on the scam, and help stop the scammers. 

Reporting Scams (by City)

Report a California Business

There are different entities to file a complaint with depending on the type of business that scammed you. 

Report Unemployment Fraud

If you think someone is claiming unemployment benefits in your name, you can file a fraud report with the Employment Development Department:

  • Online
  • By fax: 1 (866) 340-5485
  • By calling: 1 (800) 229-6297
  • By mail to:
    PO Box 826880
    MIC 43
    Sacramento, CA 94280-0225

Note that you may not know someone is fraudulently claiming unemployment insurance payments until it's too late. If you receive a 1099G form but don't claim unemployment benefits, you need to report it. 

The above contact information can also be used to report others who are claiming benefits fraudulently, including:

  • Unemployment insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Paid family leave
  • Payroll tax
  • Workers compensation
  • Social Security insurance

Hiring a Lawyer in California

Sometimes, reporting fraud in California isn't enough, especially if you're trying to recoup your losses. Hiring a lawyer can help you deal with businesses and individuals, but beware that they can be costly.

If you don't have a lawyer, you can contact the California State Bar to be referred to a certified lawyer:

  • From within California: (866) 442-2529
  • From outside California: (415) 538-2250
  • Find a lawyer online 

Identity Theft in California

If you've had your identity stolen, there are several steps you need to take to recover and stop the thieves from fraudulently using your name, Social Security number, bank accounts, and more. 

There are two types of identity theft:

  • Regular identity theft: Where someone uses your name and information fraudulently.
  • Criminal identity theft: Where someone uses your identity after or when committing a crime.

Recovering from Identity Theft in California

If you've had your identity stolen, whether due to a phishing attack or other scam, you need to act quickly and take some crucial steps to minimize the impact. Recovering from identity theft can be an extremely stressful and arduous process, so be prepared. 

  • Freeze your credit or place a fraud alert on your credit report. (Contact the credit bureaus.)
  • Get a police report of the theft from your local police. Bring as much evidence as possible, such as copies of your credit report showing fraudulent activity. 
  • Contact the creditors that opened the fraudulent accounts in your name and let them know it was not you that requested them. Close any accounts that you did not authorize. 
  • Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). 
  • Continue to monitor your credit report for suspicious activity (e.g., unauthorized credit pulls or opened accounts). 

Recovering from Criminal Identity Theft in California

Criminal identity theft is very serious and can wreak havoc on your life. It occurs when someone is taken in by law enforcement for committing a crime, and instead of using their real name, they use yours. Once this happens, you'll end up with a criminal record—for a crime you didn't commit. 

This can have serious domino effects, such as:

  • Losing your job and not being able to be hired in the future
  • Having a warrant for your arrest (or being arrested) for a crime you didn't commit
  • Losing your driver's license
  • Facing more severe penalties when convicted for other crimes
  • Losing your professional license
  • Being unable to get approved for housing (e.g., when renting)

If you've fallen victim to criminal identity theft in California, you'll need to apply to be added to the California Identity Theft Registry. You can do this online or by calling +1 (888) 880-0240 to be sent a registration pack (including instructions). You'll need to:

  • Get a Certificate of Identity Theft by going to court. 
  • Get your fingerprints scanned at a LiveScan location.
  • Complete the Identity Theft: Application for Registration as Victim form. 
  • Send your application form, court order, and LiveScan Service Form to:

    State of California
    Department of Justice
    BCIA/Command Center Rm G210
    P.O. Box 903417
    Sacramento, CA 94203-4170
    Attn: I.D. Theft Registry

Once your application is processed, your details will be added to a California-wide database, and agencies and individuals that you've specified will be notified of this criminal identity theft.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I report welfare fraud in California?

If you think someone is claiming welfare benefits fraudulently, you should report it to your county's Department of Social Services branch.

How do I report voter fraud in California?

If you think someone is fraudulently voting on your behalf or want to report other types of voter fraud, report it to the California Secretary of State:

How do I report disability fraud in California?

If you believe someone is claiming disability payments when they are not eligible, report it to the California Employment Development Department online, by mail, or by fax.


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