Identity theft occurs when somebody steals your name and other personal information for fraudulent purposes.
If you are a victim of identity theft, take the following four steps as soon as possible, and keep a record with the details of your conversations and copies of all correspondence.
1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports.
Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies below to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too. If you do not receive a confirmation from a company, you should contact that company directly to place a fraud alert.
TransUnion: 1.800.680.7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6792, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
Equifax: 1.800.525.6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian: 1.888.EXPERIAN (397.3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
Once you place the fraud alert in your file, you’re entitled to order one free copy of your credit report from each of the three consumer reporting companies, and, if you ask, only the last four digits of your Social Security number will appear on your credit reports. Once you get your credit reports, review them carefully. Look for inquiries from companies that you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open, and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain. Check that information, like your Social Security number, address(es), name or initials, and employers are correct. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed. For more information and forms, go to www.ftc.gov and see “Correcting Fraudulent Information in Credit Reports” to learn how. When you correct your credit report, use an “Identity Theft Report” (also available at www.ftc.gov) with a cover letter explaining your request, to get the fastest and most complete results.
Continue to check your credit reports periodically, especially for the first year after you discover the identity theft, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
2. Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company. Follow up in writing, and include copies (NOT originals) of supporting documents. It’s important to notify credit card companies and banks in writing. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when. Keep a file of your correspondence and enclosures.
If the identity thief has made charges or debits on your accounts, or has fraudulently opened accounts, ask the company for the forms to dispute those transactions.
Once you have resolved your identity theft dispute with the company, ask for a letter stating that the company has closed the disputed accounts and has discharged the fraudulent debts. This letter is your best proof if errors relating to this account reappear on your credit report or you are contacted again about the fraudulent debt.
3. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
You can file a complaint with the FTCC using their online complaint form; or call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1.877.ID.Theft (438.4338); TTY: 1.866.653.4261; or write Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20580. Be sure to call the Hotline to update your complaint if you have any additional information or problems.
You can provide a printed copy of your online Complaint form to the police to incorporate into their police report. The printed FTC ID Theft Complaint, in conjunction with the police report, can constitute an Identity Theft Report and entitle you to certain protections. This Identity Theft Report can be used to (1) permanently block fraudulent information from appearing on your credit report; (2) ensure that debts do not reappear on your credit report; (3) prevent a company from continuing to collect debts that result from identity theft; and (4) place an extended fraud alert on your credit report.
4. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
Contact your local police department and tell them that you want to file a report about your identity theft. When you go to your local police department to file your report, bring a printed copy of your FTC ID Theft Complaint form, your cover letter, and your supporting documentation. The cover letter explains why a police report and an ID Theft Complaint are so important to victims.
Ask the officer to attach or incorporate the ID Theft Complaint into their police report. Ask them for a copy of the Identity Theft Report (the police report with your ID Theft Complaint attached or incorporated) to dispute the fraudulent accounts and debts created by the identity thief.
For additional information about steps to take when you believe you are a victim of Identity Theft, please go to the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.