What To Do If You Are A Victim
Although each identity theft situation is absolutely unique, there are a few common measures every victim should take. If you think you’ve become a victim, you should immediately walk through the following six steps:
Step 1: File a police report.
Contact your local police department as soon as you discover you’re a victim of identity theft. Although they may or may not be able to solve your case, filing a report will get you on the road to restoring your good name and repairing your credit rating.
If you believe your personal information was stolen while you were traveling, contact the local police in the town where you think the crime went down.
Once you have filed a report with your local police, you should report the crime to one of the following agencies, depending on the type of theft that occurred:
Credit card theft: If your credit card or credit card number was stolen, be sure to contact the fraud department of your credit card company. (More on this in Step 3)
Online identity theft: If you think your information may have been stolen online, you should notify the Internet Fraud Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
Stolen mail: If you suspect your mail was stolen, report it the US Postal Inspection Service. Call 877-876-2455 or file an online complaint at www.postalinspectors.uspis.gov.
ATM card: If the identity theft involved your debit card, you should report it to your local Secret Service office.
Step 2: Notify the major credit bureaus.
Contact at least one of the three major credit bureaus at the following numbers:
If you call one of the credit bureaus, they are required to notify the other two. So there’s no need to call all three unless it gives you peace of mind to do so.
When you call the credit bureau, explain your identity theft situation and request that they place a fraud alert on all your credit account. Each of the three major bureaus is required to notify the other two in the event you place a fraud alert.
This tool is a great way to fight back in your own words, allowing creditors to hear your side of the story prior to rendering any decision regarding your credit status.
You should realize that there are two types of fraud alerts. First, there is an initial alert, which lasts only 90 days. The credit bureaus automatically place this type of alert on your accounts if you tell them that you may be a victim of identity theft. They also activate this type of alert if you think you could become a victim of identity theft in the near future—maybe because your wallet or Social Security card was stolen. When you place an initial alert on your accounts, you’ll be entitled to receive one free credit report from each credit bureau.
There is also an extended alert, which remains on your credit report for seven years. If you confirm that you are indeed a victim of identity theft, you should request an extended alert.
In order to place an extended alert on your accounts, you will have to provide one of the bureaus with an identity theft report from your local police department. Once the extended alert is activated, you will be entitled to receive two free credit reports from each of the credit bureaus within 12 months.
A credit freeze may be the solution for you if you do not intend to apply for credit anytime soon. A credit freeze prevents anyone from looking into your account to determine your credit-worthiness. A credit freeze does not protect you from things like insurance fraud, employee/insider fraud, medical fraud or data breaches. Freezes typically cost $10 for each of the 3 major credit bureaus, or $30 for each freeze and $30 for each thaw.
For more state by state information about freezing your credit, visit: http://www.worldprivacyforum.org/creditfreeze.html#statesecurityfreezelist
Step 3: Contact your creditors and respond to debt collectors.
Call all of your creditors, including your credit card companies, mortgage company, car loan company and retailers where you have credit accounts. Let each of these companies know that you are an identity theft victim.
If your credit card or account number has been stolen, ask the credit card company to close your account. They will issue you a new card with a different account number. If the criminal made charges on your credit card, your liability is limited to just $50 by law—as long as you notify the credit card company in a timely manner.
Debit cards pose a different set of risks, vulnerabilities and rules. The best advice is to avoid using them whenever possible, to prevent the loss of your personal savings.
If a fraudulent account has been opened in your name, notify the fraud department of the company where the account is held.
Again, keep copies of your credit cards and other account information in a safe, secure place. If you become a victim, you’ll need to access this critical information quickly so you can make all the necessary phone calls.
Step 4: Take control of your bank accounts.
If you believe an identity thief has accessed your bank account, stolen your checks or set up a bank account in your name, notify your bank immediately.
If your checkbook was stolen, ask your bank to put a stop payment on all of your checks and close the account. It is also a good strategy not to reveal you gender or full name on your checks if initials seem sufficient.
If you think a fraudster is writing checks or has set up a fake account in your name, you’ll want to notify each of the following check-verification companies:
Cross Check: 800-843-0760
Equifax Check Services: 800-437-5120
Step 5: Report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission.
Visit the FTC website at www.ftc.gov. This is the official government help line for identity theft victims. Not only can you report identity theft on the site, but it’s also a great resource with all the information identity theft victims might need.
Step 6: Create an identity theft affidavit.
It may take a while for you to figure out exactly what kind of identity theft has been committed against you and all of the specifics. However, once you have a better grasp on the details of your identity theft case, you should complete an identity theft affidavit.
An ID theft affidavit allows you to record a full description of your situation explaining what happened to you. You can then send copies of this affidavit to any debt collectors, credit bureaus or credit companies asking for proof of the crime. You can obtain an ID affidavit from the identity theft section of the FTC website, under "Tools for Victims" or by following the link below.
Eventually, it will be difficult to keep track of who you talked to and when or what was discussed.
That is why you should keep thorough notes of every company or institution you call, including an overview of every conversation. Keep a clipboard or notebook with a log of each and every conversation, including dates, names, and phone numbers.
This helps to avoid the panic and confusion that are commonplace when trying to resolve your issues with lenders, credit agencies, law enforcement and others.
The key to resolving your identity theft ordeal as quickly and painlessly as possible is to be prepared before disaster strikes. A little preparation now will make all of these steps much easier to take later on, should it come to that.