Identity Theft: Action Steps for Victims

Follow the following seven steps if you become a victim of identity theft

1. Make Sure to Document your Actions

  • Document the time and money you spend on straightening out the identity theft.
  • Keep copies of correspondence and documents related to the theft.
  • Write records of all telephone calls, including the date and time of your call and the name and title of the person who assisted you.
  • Write letters to confirm all phone conversations. Include the date, the name of the person you spoke with, and what actions were taken.
  • To be extra careful, send documents and letters Return Receipt Requested and keep the postal receipt with your copy.
  • Consider using the ID Theft Affidavit to avoid having to complete different forms. Download Affidavit form at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/resources/forms/affidavit.pdf

2. Contact the Police

  • File a report with your local law enforcement. You will need information from the police report to straighten out your credit and accounts after the crime. Make sure to get the police report number and give this information to all companies you contact in getting your credit cleared up.

3. Contact the Credit Bureaus

  • Contact the fraud departments at each of the three credit bureaus:

o Equifax (800) 525-6285

o Experian (888) 397-3742

o TransUnion (800) 680-7289

  • Get all three agencies to flag the accounts with a "fraud alert." Find out how long the fraud alert will remain on your report and how to extend that time, if needed. Ask that all creditors contact you at a phone number you provide to verify all future applications.
  • Add a "victim's statement" to the report.
  • Have each credit bureau send you a copy of your report to help guide you in tracing where and when any fraud occurred to your accounts.

Send a dispute letter to the credit bureaus telling them what information is inaccurate. Credit bureaus must investigate the items in question, usually within 30 days, unless they consider your dispute frivolous. View a Sample Letter (PDF)

  • In a few months, order new copies of your reports to verify corrections and changes, and to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.

4. Contact Credit Card Companies

  • Close any affected accounts so they're registered as "Closed at customer request."
  • Send dispute letter telling the credit card issuer what information is incorrect. View a Sample Letter (PDF)
  • Get new accounts and protect accounts with passwords.
  • Follow up with a letter documenting the date, the name of the person who helped you, and what actions were taken.

5. Contact Your Bank / Broker

  • Cancel checking and savings accounts and open new ones.
  • Stop payments on outstanding checks.
  • Get a new ATM card, account number, and PIN.
  • If you believe that a thief has tampered with your securities investments or a brokerage account, immediately report it to your broker/account manager and to the Securities and Exchange Commission (202-942-8088).

6. Contact Major Check Verification Companies

If your checks have been stolen or misused, contact these major check verification companies for these services:

  • To request that they notify retailers who use their databases not to accept your checks, call:

o Cartegy, Inc. 1-800-437-5120

o Global Payments 1-800-766-2748

o TeleCheck 1-800-710-9898

  • To find out if an identity thief has been passing bad checks in your name, call:

o SCAN 1-800-262-7771

7. Contact Government Authorities

  • Contact other authorities that specialize in identity theft. The FTC runs the ID Theft Hotline and the ID Theft Data Clearinghouse:

o FTC ID THEFT HOTLINE: (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338)

  • If your Social Security number has been compromised, report it to the Social Security Administration:

o SOCIAL SECURITY FRAUD HOTLINE: (800) 269-0271

If any mail was used in the fraud, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. This agency is helpful if any fraudulent utility bills or apartment leases show up on your credit report:

o U.S. POSTAL INSPECTORS: (800) 372-8347