Identity Theft Victim
What Should I Do If I'm an Identity Theft Victim?
Follow up all calls in writing.
Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when. Keep copies for your files.
Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports.
Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact any of the three major consumer reporting companies to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too.
Once you place the fraud alert in your file, you're entitled to order free copies of your credit reports, and, if you ask, only the last four digits of your SSN will appear on your credit reports.
Once you receive your reports, review them carefully to make sure no fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or unauthorized changes made to your existing accounts. You should continue to check your reports periodically, especially in the first year of discovery, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
Contact the creditors (for example, credit card companies, phone companies and other utilities, and banks and other lenders) to close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Ask to speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each creditor, and then follow up in writing.
It's particularly important to notify credit card companies in writing. You may ask creditors for a copy of the application or other business transaction records relating to your identity theft, if you think that this information will be helpful to prove that are you are a victim. Creditors must provide this information free of charge.
File a report with your local police. Get a copy of the police report in case the creditors, credit bureaus or others need proof of the crime.
File a complaint with the FTC. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases which are used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps us learn more about identity theft and the problems victims are having so that we may better assist you.
How Do I Cope with Identity Theft?
Consider your identity theft incident as your "case". Your primary goals are to:
- Close fraudulent accounts.
- Clear yourself of responsibility for any debts or other criminal activities the thief has perpetrated in your name.
- Ensure that your credit report is correct.
- Find out as much information about the suspect as you can so you can share that information with the police and the FTC. Develop a plan of action to accomplish these goals. Make a list of the documents you'll need and a list of companies from which you'll need to get those documents.
When contacting a company, don't assume that the person you talk to will give you all the information you need. Determine in advance what information or result you want and develop a list of questions or a strategy to achieve your goal. For example, the company you call first may say they weren't the ones that extended the credit to the thief.
But, if you ask, they may be able to tell you which company did. Listen carefully and take notes. Don't end the call until you're sure you understand everything you've been told. If you don't feel you're getting the help you need, ask to speak to a supervisor.
The Following Tips Can Help Keep Your Case Organized:
- Follow up in writing with all contacts you've made on the phone or in person. Use certified mail, return receipt requested.
- Keep copies of all correspondence or forms you send.
- Keep a list of anyone you talk to, what you were told, and the date of the conversation.
- Keep originals of supporting documentation, like police reports and letters to and from creditors; share copies only.
- Set up a filing system for easy access to your paperwork.
- Keep old files even if you think your case is closed. Although most cases once resolved, stay resolved, in some cases, problems can crop up again. Should this happen, you'll be glad you kept your files!
What precautions can I take to protect myself in the future?
Your computer may be an easy target for identity theives. Using the internet and e-mail can potentially make yourself vulnerable.
- Don't let Windows store your passwords for you. Use a password manager to store and encrypt your passwords.
- Keep your computer clean from personal information. Software tools can do more than just delete your personal information from your computer; they can permanently remove this important data.