Your First Four Steps
1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and review your credit reports.
Call the toll-free fraud number of any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit report. This can help prevent an identity thief from opening additional accounts in your name. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will automatically be notified to place fraud alerts on your credit report, and all three reports will be sent to you free of charge.
Equifax — To report fraud, call: 1-800-525-6285, and write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian — To report fraud, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742), and write: P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion — To report fraud, call: 1-800-680-7289, and write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
Once you receive your reports, review them carefully. Look for inquiries you didn’t initiate, accounts you didn’t open, and unexplained debts on your true accounts. Where “inquiries” appear from the company(ies) that opened the fraudulent account(s), request that these “inquiries” be removed from your report. (See “Credit Reports” for more information.) You also should check that information such as your SSN, address(es), name or initial, and employers are correct. Inaccuracies in this information also may be due to typographical errors. Nevertheless, whether the inaccuracies are due to fraud or error, you should notify the credit bureau as soon as possible by telephone and in writing. You should continue to check your reports periodically, especially in the first year after you’ve discovered the theft, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred. The automated “one-call” fraud alert process only works for the initial placement of your fraud alert. Orders for additional credit reports or renewals of your fraud alerts must be made separately at each of the three major credit bureaus.
2. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Credit accounts include all accounts with banks, credit card companies and other lenders, and phone companies, utilities, ISPs, and other service providers.
If you’re closing existing accounts and opening new ones, use new Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords.
If there are fraudulent charges or debits, ask the company about the following forms for disputing those transactions:
For new unauthorized accounts, ask if the company accepts the ID Theft Affidavit (available at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/affidavit.pdf or in the Appendix below). If they don’t, ask the representative to send you the company’s fraud dispute forms.
For your existing accounts, ask the representative to send you the company’s fraud dispute forms.
If your ATM card has been lost, stolen or otherwise compromised, cancel the card as soon as you can. Get a new card with a new PIN.
If your checks have been stolen or misused, close the account and ask your bank to notify the appropriate check verification service. While no federal law limits your losses if someone steals your checks and forges your signature, state laws may protect you. Most states hold the bank responsible for losses from a forged check, but they also require you to take reasonable care of your account. For example, you may be held responsible for the forgery if you fail to notify the bank in a timely way that a check was lost or stolen. Contact your state banking or consumer protection agency for more information.
You also should contact these major check verification companies. Ask that retailers who use their databases not accept your checks.
TeleCheck — 1-800-710-9898 or 927-0188
Certegy, Inc. — 1-800-437-5120
International Check Services — 1-800-631-9656
Call SCAN (1-800-262-7771) to find out if the identity thief has been passing bad checks in your name.
3. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
Keep a copy of the report. You may need it to validate your claims to creditors. If you can’t get a copy, at least get the report number.
4. File a complaint with the FTC.
By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials track down identity thieves and stop them. The FTC also can refer victim complaints to other appropriate government agencies and companies for further action. The FTC enters the information you provide into our secure database.
Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.
on Filing a Police Report
- Provide documentation.
Furnish as much documentation as
you can to prove your case. Debt
collection letters, credit reports,
your notarized ID Theft Affidavit,
and other evidence of fraudulent
activity can help the police file
a complete report.
- Be persistent.
Local authorities may tell you that
they can’t take a report.
Stress the importance of a police
report; many creditors require one
to resolve your dispute. Also remind
them that under their voluntary
“Police Report Initiative,”
credit bureaus will automatically
block the fraudulent accounts and
bad debts from appearing on your
credit report, but only
if you can give them a
copy of the police report. If you
can’t get the local police
to take a report, try your county
police. If that doesn’t work,
try your state police.
If you’re told that identity
theft is not a crime under your
state law, ask to file a Miscellaneous
Incident Report instead. See the
list of state laws below.
- Be a motivating force.
Ask your police department to search
the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel
database for other complaints in
your community. You may not be the
first or only victim of this identity
thief. If there is a pattern of
cases, local authorities may give
your case more consideration.
why it’s also important
to file a complaint with the FTC.
Law enforcement agencies use complaints
filed with the FTC to aggregate
cases, spot patterns, and track
growth in identity theft. This
information can then be used to
improve investigations and victim
Organizing Your Case
Accurate and complete
records will greatly improve your
chances of resolving your identity
- Follow up in writing with all
contacts you’ve made on the
phone or in person. Use certified
mail, return receipt requested.
- Keep copies of all correspondence
or forms you send.
- Write down the name of anyone
you talk to, what he or she told
you, and the date the conversation
occurred. Use Chart
Your Course of Action, below,
to help you.
- Keep the originals of supporting
documentation, like police reports,
and letters to and from creditors;
send copies only.
- Set up a filing system for easy
access to your paperwork.
- Keep old files even if you believe
your case is closed. One of the
most difficult and annoying aspects
of identity theft is that errors
can reappear on your credit reports
or your information can be re-circulated.
Should this happen, you’ll
be glad you kept your files.