Identity theft remains one of the top consumer complaints in the United States. An estimated 15 million identities are obtained and fraudulently used in the United States each year resulting in over $50 billion in losses.
The most effective way to respond to stolen personal information or its unauthorized use is for the victim to face the issue head on and take the necessary measures to correct damage done by the thief.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a person should take the following steps in order to limit the potential damage.
1. Contact Fraud Departments
Contact the fraud departments of the companies where you know the fraud occurred. Explain that someone has stolen your identity and ask them to close or freeze your account to prevent any new charges. Change your PINS, passwords, and login information.
When reporting identity theft to the FTC, complete the online complaint form athttps://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1. Provide as many details as possible. With this information, the FTC will create your Identity Theft Affidavit. Immediately print and save your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit, as you will no longer be able to access and obtain it once you leave the page. Reports or updates to your affidavit can also be filed by calling 1-877-438-4338.
5. File a Police Report
File a report with your local police department. Go to your local police office with the following items:
A copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit
Government issued identification that includes a photo
Inform the police that someone has stolen your identity and that you need to file a report. Your local police department is required to file a report. If they appear hesitant to file a report, present them with the FTC’s Memo to Law Enforcement. Obtain a copy of the police report for your records. Combining your Identity Theft Affidavit with the Police Report makes up your Identity Theft Report.
6. Contact Businesses with Fraudulent Accounts
Now that you have an Identity Theft Report, call the fraud department of each business where you believe a new account was opened. Explain your situation and ask to close the account and for a letter confirming that the fraudulent account is not yours, nor are you responsible for it, and that it will be removed from your credit report. Depending on the business, they may have you send a copy of the Identity Theft Report or have you complete their special dispute form. Save the confirmation letter for your own records.
7. Send Letters of Explanation to Credit Bureaus
Contact each of the three credit bureaus with a letter explaining your predicament, specifying which accounts or charges in your name came from identity theft. Note that you want them to remove (or block) this information. Be sure to include the following items with your letter:
A copy of your Identity Theft Report
Proof of your identity (name, address, and Social Security Number)