If You are a Victim of Identity Theft
If you suspect or know that your personal information has been stolen or used to commit fraud or theft, you must take action immediately and keep records of your actions, conversations and correspondence.
The following provides general information on what you should do. However, as in all matters associated with the law, you should consult with a lawyer or other legal representative to learn more about your rights and obligations specific to your region.
Step 1: Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and review your credit reports
In order to prevent an identity thief from opening additional accounts in your name, your first step should be to call a credit bureau to place a fraud alert on your credit report. The credit bureau will normally share the alert with other bureaus. For a list of bureaus in your region, see Links and Resources.
Review your reports carefully, looking for:
- Inquiries you didn't initiate
- Accounts you didn't open
- Unexplained debts on your true accounts
- Errors in your name, address, social security number, or employers
Step 2: Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently
Credit accounts include all accounts with banks, credit card companies and other lenders, and phone companies, utilities, ISPs, and other service providers.
- Ensure you change your Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) and passwords for any existing accounts.
- If an ATM / EFTPOS card has been compromised, cancel the card and request a new card with a new PIN.
- In the United States, for new unauthorized accounts, ask if the company accepts the ID Theft Affidavit (provided by the FTC). If they don't, request their fraud dispute forms.
- For existing accounts where there are fraudulent transactions, request the companies fraud dispute forms.
If checks have been stolen or misused, you must notify the bank immediately to have the account closed and request the bank to notify the appropriate check verification service.
Responsibility for forged checks are with the banks; however, you are expected to take reasonable care of your account, including checks. You may be held responsible for forgery if you do not notify the bank in a timely manner.
Contact the check verification companies, requesting that companies who use their databases not accept your checks.
In the United States:
- TeleCheck - 1800 710 9898 or 927 0188
- Certegy, Inc. - 1800 437 5120
- International Check Services - 1800 631 9656
Step 3: File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place
Provide as much documentation as you can to help prove your case, including debt collection letters, credit reports, your notarized ID Theft Affidavit (if available) and any other evidence of fraudulent activity that may assist the investigation.
Be persistent with police. Local authorities may tell you that they can't take a report. Stress the importance of a police report--you will need a copy of this report to validate your claims to creditors. Credit bureaus will automatically block the fraudulent accounts and bad debts from appearing on your credit report only if you can provide a copy of the police report.
If the local police won't take a report, try other levels of police. If you are told identity theft isn't a crime under local law, ask to file a 'miscellaneous incident report' instead.
Step 4: File a complaint with the FTC (U.S.) or similar government body
The U.S. FTC maintains a secure database of identity theft complaints which law enforcement officials use to track down identity thieves. The FTC can also refer victim complaints to other appropriate government agencies for further action.
To file a complaint or learn more about the FTC, contact them on the most convenient method below:
Telephone: 1877-IDTHEFT (438 4338)
TDD: 202 326 2502
Identity Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20580.
For other regions, contact the local government trade authority.
Keep records of steps you have taken to report your identity theft.
- Keep accurate record of all courses of action, telephone calls, and mail.
- Ensure you have everything in writing. Send confirmation letters to contacts you have made by telephone or in person.
- Keep copies of everything!
- Keep written notes of all related conversations you have had with names, dates, times and details of the conversation.
- If you are required to provide any of the evidence or paperwork you have collected, only provide copies--keep originals of everything you have.
- When you think it's all over and you want to throw out your records, don't.