|What to do if your identity is stolen
If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft
or if you know you are, what should you do?
Here is a step-by-step guide to clearing
your good name:
Contact one of the
credit-reporting agencies. That agency will notify the others.
A "fraud alert" will be automatically placed on each
of your credit reports within 24 hours. This alerts creditors
to call you for permission before any new accounts are opened
in your name. Not all creditors pay attention to "fraud alerts."
You need to stay vigilant for any new accounts that may be opened.
Once the credit-reporting agencies are notified,
you'll automatically receive a free credit report from each of
the three agencies, and you will be opted out of preapproved credit
card and insurance offers. After you receive your reports, make
note of the unique number assigned to your account. This will
be valuable in all your communications with the agencies. Write
a victim statement explaining what happened to you and ask for
it to be added to your file at each credit-reporting agency.
Contact creditors for
any accounts that have been tampered with or opened without your
knowledge. Be sure to put your complaints in writing. Ask each
creditor to provide you and your investigating law enforcement
agency with copies of the documents showing fraudulent transactions.
You may have to fight to get this documentation, but don't give
up. You'll need these to help track down the perpetrator.
Contact the FTC:
(877) 438-4338. While federal investigators only tend to pursue
larger, more sophisticated fraud cases, they do monitor identity
theft crimes of all levels in the hopes of discovering patterns
and breaking up larger rings. More importantly, fill out
Theft Affadavit at the FTC's Web site, make copies and send
to creditors. The agency also has an online
Alert the police in your
city. You may also need to report the crime to the police departments
where the crime occurred. Make sure the police report lists all
fraud accounts. Give as much documented information as possible.
Get a copy of the report and send it to the creditors and the
credit-reporting agencies as proof of the crime. Keep the phone
number of your police investigator handy.
Change all your account passwords. If an account
does not have a password, add one. Avoid
using your mother's maiden name or the last four digits of your
Social Security number as a personal identification number.
Notify the Office
of the Inspector General if your SSN has been fraudulently
used. Ask for a copy of your Personal
Earnings and Benefits Statement and check for accuracy.
You may need to change
your driver's license number if someone is using yours as an ID.
Go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new number. Contact
your telephone and utility companies to prevent a con artist from
using a utility bill as proof of residence when applying for new