Identify identity theft so you can restore security.
There are many different types of identity theft to worry about. Whether it’s your Social Security number or your medical records, criminals are always trying to get to your personal information. Protecting your identity is your first priority. But when identity theft strikes, you need to act quickly to prevent further damage. The less you have to fight over money and deal with paperwork, the better. This guide will help you report ID theft if you become a victim.
Step 1: Contact the host of the account
If you know that access to a specific account was stolen, the first step is to contact the company you have the account with and report identity theft.
This can mean calling your bank, your credit card company, or any other account host that could have compromised information. Medical identity theft requires calling hospitals and your insurance company, and social media identity theft means reporting to the site itself. They’ll suggest steps to secure your account, including canceling and replacing your card. Acting quickly also limits your liability for charges you didn’t make.
Have the fraudulent information ready. For example, if you are reporting fraud to your bank, pull up information about the fraudulent purchase(s) on your computer so you don’t have to search for the information during the call.
Estimated Time: 1 hour, plus time to follow the company’s directions
Step 2: Place a fraud alert
Place an initial fraud alert on your credit reports.
Fraud alerts make it more difficult for credit to be opened in your name. Go to the website of any of the three big credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion — and request one. It’s free, and the information will be shared between all three.
A fraud alert won’t necessarily prevent someone from using the accounts you already have, however. That’s why the next step is to create an identity theft report.
This is the first step in reporting identity theft. Do this as soon as you know you are a victim. The sooner, the better, and the safer your money and information will be.
Estimated Time: 30 minutes
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Step 3: Create an identity theft report
Submit an identity theft complaint to the Federal Trade Commission.
IdentityTheft.gov is where you report identity theft to the FTC. The FTC identity theft report will generate something called an identity theft affidavit, which you use to file a police report with local law enforcement.
Having both of these documents makes it much easier to stop and reverse the damage from identity theft. They’ll enable you to get a 7-year fraud alert on your credit file (initial fraud alerts only last 90 days, but are renewable) and with that two free credit reports from each CRA per year. Normally you only get one per year; these two reports are on top of that.
You’ll also have an easier time removing fraudulent information from your credit reports and stopping companies trying to collect fraud-based debts when you complete this step and step 4.
Estimated Time: 1-2 hours to submit information for the report
NOTE: Due to the government shutdown, IdentityTheft.gov is not currently running.
Step 4: File a police report
Report your case of identity theft to the police.
If you know who the thief is, an affected company wants you to file an official police report, or the thief has used your personal information in interactions with law enforcement, you will need to file a police report. This means taking a trip to your local police station with the right paperwork in hand. You will need:
- A government photo ID, such as a Driver’s License
- Proof of address
- Your FTC Identity Theft Report
- All other proof that could help the investigation
Ask for a copy of the police report for your own records. Then review how to prevent identity theft to avoid new issues in the future.
Estimated Time: 2 hours to report identity theft to the police
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