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How to Report Identity Theft

August 22, 2007

If your identity has been stolen you need to act immediately to minimize the damage. Where should you start?

Identify the fraudulent accounts that have been opened in your name by someone else. You’ll find them on your credit report. Very possibly, the way you’ll find out you have fraudulent accounts is from a collections agency coming after you for overdue payments. Don’t talk to the collections agency about this – call the lender directly and let them know this account wasn’t opened by you.

If the theft involves someone using your existing credit card accounts, bank accounts or other lines of credit, call the bank, store or credit card companies right away and report it. This will alert them of the theft and minimize your damages and liabilities.

Then report identity theft to the following agencies, depending on your specific circumstances.

Report Identity Theft to the Federal Trade Commission

If you have any difficulty when you try to report identity theft to any of the above institutions involved in your case, hang up and call the FTC instead.

Mandated by the Identity Theft & Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 to receive and process complaints from identity theft victims, the FTC is also given the responsibility under federal law to refer complaints to the appropriate agencies. This includes the major credit and police agencies.

You have two options:
– Use their hotline, 1-877-IDTHEFT (or 1-877-438-4338)
– Use their complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/

Contact the Police

File a report with your local law enforcement. This is important because it establishes a time and date that you discovered the theft and shows you took action. If your identity was stolen when you were away from home, you may need to contact the police in that jurisdiction, too.

Opening a police case accomplishes two things:

  • First, the police can start investigating the crime.
  • Second, you will need information from the police report to help you straighten out your credit and accounts after the crime.

When you talk to the police, make sure you get the police report number and information on how to reach the investigator. Give this information to all the companies you contact in getting your credit cleared up after the crime. Ask for a copy of the police report – you may or may not be able to get one. Ask anyway.

Report Identity Theft to the Social Security Administration

Okay, here’s the bad news: The SSA doesn’t give help to victims of identity theft. But they have mechanisms in place so you can fix the problem.

You have three options:
– Use their hotline 800-269-0271
– Use their complaint form at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/oig
– Change your number (Only an option if you fit the SSA’s victim of fraud criteria. Visit http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10064.html for details.)

More bad news: Even if your SSN has been hijacked and report identity theft to all the proper entities, getting a new SSN may not make the problem go away completely.

A new SSN is not an assurance that you’ll get a fresh credit record. Bureaus may end up combining all your credit files from both your old and new SSNs anyway.

What’s more, even when your fraudulent history is no longer attached to your new SSN, having no credit history under a new SSN may make it hard for you to get credit.

Report Identity Theft to the Three Major Credit Bureaus

You should be familiar with these three offices, since you must already be requesting free, periodic credit reports from them by now.

Call the following numbers to report identity theft:
– Equifax 800-525-6285
– Experian 888-EXPERIAN (or 888-397-3742)
– TransUnion 800-680-7289

Protecting your identity requires some work every month but is much easier than fixing it after it’s been stolen. Peace of mind is probably the best benefit of having a good identity theft prevention plan in place.

Comments

2 Responses to “How to Report Identity Theft”

  1. jennie on July 17th, 2008 6:25 am

    How do you obtain copies of and identity theft report you filled out? About 4-5 years ago my boyfriend had someone get a credit card in his name, we had contacted the card company, filled out identity theft papers and about 2 weeks ago he got served papers that he is being sued over the very same account, what action can be taken to correct this issue? Thank you, Jennie

  2. The Identity 'Protector' on July 17th, 2008 7:53 am

    Jennie,

    Sorry to hear you’re having a problem after all these years. That’s one of the nasty side effects of identity theft.

    Personally, I would start at the beginning all over again. File a police report – they are much more likely to do the report now than there were 4-5 years ago. Then file a complaint with the FTC – this isn’t going to resolve your issue but it does document a report.

    Your boyfriend needs to get copies of his credit reports from all 3 credit bureaus to see if this account is showing and if there are any others. Go to http://annualcreditreport.com. You can get free reports there once a year.

    It’s very unfortunate that you can’t find the original identity theft report he filed with the credit card company. You’ll just have to call them and ask if they can locate the report. He’s a bit at their mercy now with this.

    Keep a file on every single thing you do when reporting identity theft. That includes phone calls/names/dates/times/what you talked about.

    If the credit card company says they have no report on file, you’ll need to do it again. Back it up with the police report. Dispute it at the credit bureaus. This can all take a bit of time to do and probably will be frustrating. Try to be patient but firm when talking to any reps.

    You may need to hire an attorney if you can’t get this resolved yourself.

    Another thing he should do immediately is to place a fraud alert or even a credit freeze on his credit files to prevent anyone but him from opening a new account.
    Here’s an article about that: http://www.youridentitysafe.com/identity-theft-resources/23credit-freeze-vs-fraud-alert

    Good Luck with this.

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