What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen
The following material is excerpted from Martin T. Biegelman’s book entitled Identity Theft Handbook: Detection, Prevention, and Security, Chapter 20 “Preventing Identity Theft: 21 Rules You Must Use” Rule 21. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and reprinted with their permission. Copyright © 2009 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.
If you learn that you have become a victim of identity theft, do the following:
- Immediately contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) to let them know about your situation.
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
- Request these companies to place a fraud alert in your file as well as a credit freeze. For more information see step 18 under the “Prevention Methods” section entitled “Place Fraud Alerts.”
- Order copies of your credit report from the three credit bureaus to determine the extent of your victimization.
- Thoroughly review your report for fraudulent activity. Look for accounts opened and listed “inquiries.” The listed inquiry gives you an indication that there are opened or about to be opened accounts.
- Contact those affected accounts for reporting. To protect yourself from fraud, close those accounts.
- Contact your credit card companies and financial institutions to let them know about your situation. Order new cards and account numbers.
- Several months later, request another credit report to confirm that the credit bureaus made the necessary corrections by removing the fraudulent accounts. This will also allow you to check if there is any other suspicious activity.
- Report the crime to the local police. This will establish the criminal activity and the facts. It is important that you obtain a copy of the report from the police because the credit bureaus, credit card companies, and other financial institutions will ask for a copy.
- Make a report to the federal law enforcement agencies focused on identity theft crimes such as the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U. S. Secret Service.
- File an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/. Although the FTC does not conduct criminal investigations, it provides detailed information and assistance to victims to resolve financial and other problems resulting from victimization.
- Take identity theft seriously, it is not enough to report the fraud by telephone because the representative of the financial institutions that you contacted may move from job to job, or some other situation may happen.
- It is important to document the events in writing and to create a paper trail that you can refer to if necessary.
- Do not assume that your job is done once you report the occurrence to law enforcement, your banks, credit card companies, and the major credit bureaus. You must continuously follow up, possibly for years, to ensure that your identity is not still being fraudulently used. It is your responsibility to monitor your accounts and history.
- Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Contact the fraud department with the holder of the account and give them all pertinent information in writing. Follow-up to make sure accounts were closed and all actions were taken.
- File a fraud report with the companies that have fraudulent accounts opened in your name.
- Contact the Social Security Administration to determine if you will require a new Social Security number. More information can be found here http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10064.html.
- College students who have had the identification stolen should also contact the U.S. Department of Education for any college loans that may have been taken out with their identification. Additional information can be found here http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/misused/index.html.
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