8 steps to take if your identity
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
- Contact one of the three
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 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
at (877) 438-4338. While federal investigators only tend to pursue larger,
more sophisticated fraud cases, they monitor identity theft crimes of all
levels in the hopes of discovering patterns and breaking up larger rings.
More importantly, fill out the ID
Theft Affidavit at the FTC's Web site, make copies and send them to your
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 Social Security number 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 cards.
-- Updated: June 29, 2005