What to Do if You're a Victim of Identity Theft
If you have reason to believe that you're a victim of identity theft, you're no doubt upset, but it's very important to keep cool and take a step-by-step approach to the crime. To prevent further damage and begin the road to recovery, there's a recommended series of steps you should follow when reporting identity theft.
You should also understand that you're not alone. Millions of people are identity theft victims every year in the United States. If you're one of those victims, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that you take the following steps, in order and as quickly as possible:
1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review them.
Contact TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian, and tell them you want to put a fraud alert on your report. Placing a fraud alert on your credit reports prevents a thief form opening any new accounts in your name. Fortunately, you only need to contact one of those agencies — the one you contact is required to contact the other two about the alert.
Here's the contact information to place a fraud alert:
2. Close any accounts that the thief opened or compromised.
Review a current copy of your credit report, and call each credit card, merchant, lenders, or other account holders to cancel the accounts. Write down the names of the people with whom you spoke for each account and when you spoke to them. Then contact them all in writing, via certified mail with a return receipt, to verify when they received the request. Tell each of them that you're closing the account and with whom you spoke and when. In addition, provide copies of any documents that support your claim of identity theft.
3. File a police report.
Call the cops where you live or in the location where the theft occurred. Report the identity theft, and request a copy of the police report for your records. Provide as much detail as you can when making the report, and bring copies of supporting documents.
4. File an official complaint with the FTC.
Contact the FTC via telephone at 1-877-438-4338, or file a complaint online at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.
Learning that you're an identity theft victim is heartbreaking, but the good news is that there are things you can do to prevent this from happening to you. Get informed, proactively protect your personal information by shredding credit card offers and other documents, check your credit reports often, keep the antivirus software on your computer updated, and run regular scans.