Protect Your Identity and Data

Identity Theft — What to Do if Your Identity Is Stolen

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You can (and should) fight back if your personal information is stolen. As soon as you suspect you may be a victim of identity fraud and/or identity theft, take the following steps.

Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.

The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make certain changes to your existing accounts. You can place an initial 90-day fraud alert by contacting one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. (Note: You only have to call one company. That company will contact the others.)

Placing an identity fraud alert allows you to get free copies of your credit reports. Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open and debts on your accounts you can’t explain.

Consider adding an extended identity fraud alert or credit freeze to your credit report.

These important protections can help prevent additional fraudulent misuse of your personal information.

  • An extended fraud alert is free to place if your identity has been stolen and is guaranteed by federal law. It lets you have access to your credit report, but only as long as companies take steps to verify your identity. An extended fraud alert lasts for seven years.
  • A credit freeze may be available depending on the laws in your state and may incur a small fee. It stops all access to your accounts until you remove the freeze.

To place an extended fraud alert or credit freeze, contact all three credit bureaus using the information above.

Close any account you believe has been tampered with and cancel your credit and debit cards.

Call the security or fraud department of each bank, financial institution and company. It’s important to follow up in writing and include copies of supporting documents. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when. Other tips include:

  • Use the Identity Theft Affidavit at identitytheft.gov to support your written statement.
  • Ask the company to verify in writing that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged.
  • When you open new accounts, use new Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords. Avoid using personal information like your mother’s maiden name, your birthdate, the last four digits of your Social Security number or your phone number.

Change the passwords for all of your current financial accounts.

Even the accounts in which no fraud has yet occurred.

Fill out an Identity Theft Affidavit.

It’s important to know how to report identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission has an official identity theft form that you can use to alert law enforcement and others such as the major credit bureaus, credit card companies and banks. Remember to make a copy for yourself. Identitytheft.gov also has an assistant that will walk you through completing the form. In addition, if you suspect you have been the victim of tax-related identity fraud, you may need to fill out an IRS identity theft form.

Inform the police.

Go to your local police department and tell them someone stole your identity and you need to file a report. When you go to the police office, you should bring:

Make sure you get a copy of the police report and keep it with your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit to form a complete report. You may need to send copies of this full report to credit bureaus, creditors, collectors and banks.

Monitor your credit report quarterly until the problem is resolved.

Then return to monitoring it annually.

As you go through the list, be sure to keep a log of all calls and communication, as well as time spent and expenses incurred. You may be able to seek compensation if you decide to sue the thief, and you can deduct theft-related expenses on your income tax return.

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