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.