Victims: What to do
Victims: What to Do Right Away
If you become a victim of identity theft, act quickly. This can help limit the damage.
- Call any business where you know fraud took place. Ask to speak to the fraud department. Say your identity was stolen. Ask for your account(s) to be closed or frozen so an identity thief can’t add new charges.
- Place an initial fraud alert on your files. Contact one of the three major U.S. credit reporting companies to report yourself as a victim of identity theft and to place the initial fraud alert. That one must tell the other two. Ask the credit reporting company you contact for conformation this will be done.
A fraud alert on your credit report lets lender and creditors know that they should take steps to verify your identity before they issue you credit. This may help prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name. An initial fraud alert is good for 90 days and may later be renewed. You may later choose to place an extended fraud alert. You may also choose at this time to place a credit freeze.
- Order a free credit report. By law, you are entitled to a free copy on your credit report once a year from all three companies. You must contact each individually to order a report. (You may wish to order one now, and the other two at later times.) Immediately review your credit report and note any unfamiliar transactions to authorities such as the FTC and the police
- File a complaint about the theft with the FTC. You can do so online or over the phone.
Include as much information as possible and follow instruction carefully. Make sure to save and print out your completed complaint. Once it’s printed out, it becomes an Identity Theft Affidavit. The affidavit helps you create an Identity Theft Report.
Keep a record of the day you filed the complaint, your complaint reference number, and copies of the affidavit. If you later need to update your complaint, call the phone number shown above and have your complaint reference number ready.
- File a police report. Go to your local police station (or the police station where the theft occurred). Say you are a victim of identity theft and wish to file a police report. Bring along:
- A copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit
- Any other proof of identity theft
- Proof or your address
- A government-issued photo I.D.
The FTC has provided consumer access to its “Memo to Law Enforcement” that explains the meaning, purpose, and importance of an Identity Theft Report to the police (available at identitytheft.gov). Bringing this memo may help if you find the police are reluctant to have you file a report.
Be organized and attentive
As you respond to identity theft, set up a system that helps you track information and deadlines.
- Log every phone call. Write down the date and time, phone number, and any other contact information. Also record the name, department, and title of the person you spoke with, as well as a summary of the information discussed.
- Confirm discussions in writing with follow-up letters or emails.
- Set up a filing system especially for this issue.
- Never send original documents. Keep them securely filed. Send only copies to others.
- Send all letter, document copies, or other materials by certified mail with a return receipt requested. Log who you sent what and when.
- Make and file copies of all the correspondence of documents you receive.
- Note important dates and deadlines in your calendar. Always learn how long you must supply information or to have others supply it to you.
Additional steps to take
Once you have taken care of all immediate actions, there are a few more things you can do to continue to limit damage or recover from it. What you do next, including who you contact, will depend on what personal information was stolen and how far-reaching the theft’s effects.
Visit identitytheft.gov for specific information, sample letters to send, and contact links for various situations.
As you learn of any issues through your credit report or other avenues, respond quickly.
Close fraudulent accounts
- Call the fraud department of each business and ask for the account to be closed.
- As required, send each business and copy of your Identity Theft Report and/or any completed dispute form it requests long with a letter.
- Ask for a letter that confirms the account was fraudulent, that you are not liable for it, and that it was removed from your credit report.
Get proof of fraudulent activity
- Ask businesses for copies of documents the identity thief used to open a new account or make a purchase in your name.
- Don’t take no for an answer. Speak with a supervisor if necessary.
Get rid of fraudulent charges
- Call the fraud departments of every bank or business to report all wrongful transactions.
- As required, send them copies of your Identity Theft Report and/or any completed dispute form along with a letter.
- Request letters from them that confirm their removal of fraudulent charges
Correct credit report errors
- Send a letter to the three credit reporting companies requesting all fraudulent information be blocked (removed).
- Enclose a copy of your Identity Theft Report, proof of your identity, and copies of documents that show the errors your letter is reporting.
Consider and extended fraud alert
- An extended fraud alert lasts for seven years. Unlike an initial fraud alert, which says creditors should contact you before extending credit in your name, an extended fraud alert required they do so using the contact information you provide when you place the extended alert. You also become entitled to two free copies of your credit report each year.
- If you choose to place one, send a letter of request and copy of your Identity Theft Report to each of the three credit reporting companies.
Think about a credit freeze
- Also known as a security freeze, this is designed to restrict access to your credit report unless you temporarily lift or permanently remove the freeze. A credit freeze makes it less likely that an identity thief can open a new account in your name. Be aware that a credit freeze can cause delays or other issues when you submit requests or applications that involve your credit report. Ask about such issues and weigh any concerns against your need for identity security.
- To place a credit freeze on your file, contact each of the credit reporting agencies. There may be small fees to place, lift, or remove a freeze. It depends on your state law. Many states do not charge fees to identity theft victims. Ask your state Attorney General’s office about state laws and fees for credit freezes.
Look into identity theft protection services
Many companies, including the credit reporting companies, offer identity theft protection services. These are provided on a subscription basis for a fee. Generally, they help you monitor your accounts. Some provide other types of benefits. Basic credit monitoring services track your credit history, report on your credit score, provide alerts to suspicious activity, and may include other forms of assistance.
More comprehensive identity theft protection plans usually include credit monitoring activities as a part of a package of services or benefits/ These can include family coverage options, Internet scanning to look for misuse of personal information online, recovery assistance, or insurance to cover reimbursement for certain identity theft-related expenses.
Depending on your situation, you may with to consider purchasing identity theft protection services. If so, be sure to investigate various options and weigh the pros and cons of each. Thoroughly research any company you consider. Make sure to read all the fine print, including all legal information, policies, and notices. Know exactly which services are provided, their limits, and the costs involved.