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Identify theft - victim assistance

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If someone stole your identity, act fast. Fast action can help reduce the damage identity theft can cause.

Step 1: Place an initial fraud alert on your three credit reports by calling any one of the three credit reporting companies. That company must tell the other two.

An initial fraud alert helps stop anyone who tries to open a credit account using your information.

Fraud departments of the credit reporting companies:

  • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
  • Experian: 1-888-397-3742
  • Transunion: 1-800-680-7289

Step 2: Order your credit reports by calling all three credit reporting companies and order your credit report from each. Identity theft victims can get the reports for free.

Step 3: Create an Identity Theft Report by submitting a complaint to the FTC. You can call or do it online.

  • By phone: Call 1-877-438-4338 (1-866-653-4261 TTY) talk to a counselor. The counselor will ask questions to gather information about your complaint ask the counselor to email you a link so you can print your complaint. Your completed complaint is called the “Identity Theft Affidavit” go online to save or print your Identity Theft Affidavit.
     
  • Online: Go to ftc.gov/complaint   Type your information into the online form, following the prompts on every screen.  Once completed and submitted, click the link to save the Identity Theft Affidavit to your computer.  Also, print your Identity Theft Affidavit and keep it in a safe place

Step 4:  File a police report.

Take your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit with you and get a copy of the police report or the number of the police report.  Next, attach your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit to your police report. That is your Identity Theft Report.   Keep it in a safe place

Step 5: Recovery

There is a lot to think about and do. Recovering from identity theft can take time. It helps to write things down.

Set up a file system to store:

  • the copies of your documents about the identity theft
  • letters that you send or get
  • calls that you make or get

What kinds of files should I keep?

Keep records of the letters you send or get and the conversations you have. You might need the records to prove that you already fixed something.

  • Save copies of your papers, receipts, and account statements
  • Keep a list of the companies you called and when you called them. Write the name of the person you spoke with, what you asked them to do, and what they agreed to do
  • Send a letter to the people you talked to. In your letter, confirm what they will do
  • When you mail things, ask for a return receipt. This means you will get a receipt in the mail. This is proof that you sent the letter and the company got it.

What happens when my initial fraud alert ends?
When you know your identity was stolen, you can put an extended fraud alert on your credit report. An extended fraud alert is good for seven years.

To ask for an extended fraud alert, contact each credit reporting company. You might have to give them a copy of your Identity Theft Report. Never send the original document. Send a copy.

How do I fix the mistakes in my credit report?
Write a letter to the three credit reporting companies. Get the mailing address when you call the fraud departments of each credit reporting company.

How do I fix the mistakes on my bills?

  • Send a letter to each business that reported a charge you did not make
  • Use the address they tell you to use for “disputes”
  • Change the passwords and PINs on your accounts

How do I close accounts that I did not open?

  • Send a letter to each business that opened an account
  • Include a copy of your Identity Theft Report or the forms that they use

What should I say in these letters?

Your letter should:

  • explain that you are an identity theft victim
  • list the mistakes
  • tell why you disagree with the charges
  • include any proof that you did not make the charges or open the account
  • ask them to remove the fraudulent information or close the account
  • ask the company to send you a letter that says:

    - the charge is removed from the account or the account is closed
    - the charge is removed from your credit report
    - you are not responsible for the charge

Identify theft resources

Fraud Alerts and How They Work

Fraud Alerts are like 'red flags' for anyone looking at your credit file. They signal to credit grantors that you may have been a victim of suspicious activity. Fraud Alerts alert creditors to take extra steps to verify the legitimacy of a request for new credit, extension of credit on an existing account, or issuance of an additional card on an existing account.

3 Main Types of Alerts and Length of Effectiveness:

  • Initial Fraud Alert: 90 days
  • Active Duty Alert: 1 year
  • Extended Fraud Alert: 7 years

Fraud Alerts

  • Do not prevent third parties from viewing your credit file; however third parties are required to take certain steps to verify that you have authorized the activity on your account if they see a fraud alert on the credit file.
  • Still provide lenders with access to credit files and the ability to give credit to anyone they wish.
  • Are free

Security Freezes and How They Work

Many (but not all) states allow you to place a Security Freeze on your credit file for free or for a reduced fee. A Security Freeze will put your credit file 'on ice' by preventing the information in your Equifax credit file from being reported to third parties, such as credit grantors and other companies. With a Security Freeze, lenders will not be able to gain access to your credit file unless you give permission by "thawing" the frozen file using a secret code, similar to a PIN number. This means that it's unlikely that an identity thief would be able to open a new account in your name. To see if a Security Freeze is available in your state, what your state requires, how to request it, and what fees may apply, click here.

Security Freezes

  • Block your credit file from being disclosed to third parties (except as noted above). Should you wish to apply for a loan or service you must be proactive in requesting a lift in the security freeze so that the necessary third parties will be able to view the credit file if the file is frozen (except those exempted by law).
  • Remain on your credit file until you decide to remove or lift it.
  • Give you more control over who looks at your credit file.
  • May require a payment, based on the state in which you reside, to place and/or lift the freeze.
  • Are an effective way to prevent an identity thief from opening most new accounts in your name. However, a Security Freeze cannot prevent all types of identity theft. For example, a Security Freeze will not prevent an identity thief from using your existing credit cards or other accounts.



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