Reporting and recovering from identity theft
If you find out your identity has been stolen, take steps immediately. These include keeping records, contacting authorities, requesting fraud alerts, reviewing your credit reports, freezing accounts, and more.
If you are a victim of identity theft, keep a record with the details of all your conversations with officials, agencies, banks, credit card companies, and other persons you talk with about the fraud. Also, keep copies of all correspondence.
File a report with your local police. Get a copy of the police report, including the number of the report. It can help you deal with creditors who need proof of the crime.
You also need to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or 877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338). This provides important information that can help law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them.
Requesting fraud alerts
Place a fraud alert on 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 Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion 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.
Reviewing credit reports
Per Federal law, you are entitled to one free credit report each year. To obtain a free annual report, they must be requested through the Annual Credit Report Request Service online at www.annualcreditreport.com or by phone at 877-322-8228. (If you ask, you can protect yourself further by having only the last four digits of your Social Security number appear on your credit reports.) Once you get your credit reports, review them carefully. Look for inquiries from companies you haven't contacted, accounts you didn't open, and debts on your accounts that you can't explain.
Check that your Social Security number, name, address, and employers listed on the credit report are correct. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed. 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.
Freezing fraudulent accounts
Close any account that you know or believe has been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company. It's important to notify credit card companies and banks in writing. Send your letters by certified mail with a return receipt requested so you can document what the company received and when.
Keep a file of your correspondence and enclosures. The Federal Trade Commission has developed an ID Theft Affidavit that permits identity theft victims to report information to many companies using just one form.
When you open new accounts, use new Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords. Avoid using easily available information such as your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number, your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers. The harder your passwords are to guess, the more secure your accounts.
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. Make sure you document all fraudulent information about your accounts in letters. 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.
Considering a security freeze
You may want to put a "freeze" on your credit files for a while. You can put a freeze on your credit files by contacting any of the three major credit-reporting agencies-Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.
When you put a security freeze on your accounts, no new creditor can open an account in your name without your first lifting the freeze with a Personal Identification Number, which the agencies issue to you once your files are frozen. The freeze makes it much more difficult for crooks and scam artists to open new accounts in your name.