How to Report Identity Theft

Identify identity theft so you can restore security.

Identify identity theft and take action

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.

If you know that access to a specific account was stolen, the first step is to report identity theft is to contact the company you have the account with and let them know. 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.

Pop Quiz

How much fraud could you have to pay for if your debit card is stolen and you report it within a week?

a) $0

b) $50

c) $500

d) All of it

Reveal Answer

If you report it within two business days, your liability is limited to $50. If you report it within 60 calendar days, it’s $500. Any longer and you could be on the hook for everything. With credit cards, your liability is always limited to $50 or less.

c) $500

Return to question

Next, 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.

Start by submitting an identity theft complaint to the Federal Trade Commission online. That complaint will generate something the FTC calls 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, and these 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.