Handling Identity Theft in the United States
If you find accounts in your credit report that resulted from identification theft (accounts you did not open, apply for, or request):
- Tell your local police department. Be sure to keep a copy of their police report.
- Tell the three major credit reporting agencies that a false credit application and/or account have been made in your name. It is preferable to use the notarized ID Theft Affidavit form at the FTC’s Identity Theft Clearinghouse and follow their directions. This is the form that is shared with law enforcement. Provide a copy of your local police report. The information on this affidavit form is entered into the Consumer Sentinel database along with online, telemarketing, and other fraud-related complaints that are available to criminal and civil law enforcement agencies in the United States and sometimes to law enforcement agencies outside the United States.
- Request that a Fraud Alert be placed in your credit file of each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Remember that a fraud alert can expire in as little as 90 days. But, you can request an Extended Fraud Alert that remains in your file for seven years. This requires at least proof of your identity and a copy of the police report you filed.
- Request a credit freeze be placed in your credit file.
- Send each credit reporting agency a statement (no longer than 100 words) explaining the disputed item and request that it be attached to your credit report. This will allow prospective creditors to read your statement with your credit report. You can find sample letters and more information at http://www.identitytheft.org.
- Request new account or identification numbers and passwords with each creditor, drivers license, any identification documents including government issued identification, and each financial and banking account (including online accounts). Follow their procedures for canceling identification and issuing new identification. Be sure to request a “flag" (not always labeled that) so someone other than yourself can’t be issued new identification in your name.
- Request in writing the name of the creditor and amount due from debt collectors should they contact you; and, copies of applications for accounts opened in your name without your consent from creditors.
- Contact utility companies and let them know about the possibility of an identity theft that may try to establish accounts in your name with your identification. Request a PIN so the imposter can’t gain access to your account information. Utility companies can include: gas, water, oil, electric, phone local and long distance, cable, garbage collection, cell phone, etc.
- Request in writing to block the reporting of information resulting from ID theft, not resulting from a mistake on your credit report, with both the creditor and credit reporting agency. Be very specific and list each item separately. Include copies of your FTC notarized ID Theft Affidavit. Also send proof of your identity to the credit reporting agency. The credit reporting agency must notify you if they refuse.
- Contact your Postal Inspector if someone has filed a change of address in your name without your permission or if someone stole your postal mail.
- Contact your local Social Security Administration office when your social security number or employer identification number has been stolen or used by someone else. Periodically check your Social Security Earnings and Benefits Statement to be sure someone is not reporting their earnings to your social security number. Don’t be a victim of a scam offered by fraudulent companies or individuals who claim to legally issue you a new social security or employer identification number. Not only is this illegal but you are personally responsible even if you did not know it is against the law.
- Contact your state Attorneys General Office website to know about additional rights and laws in your state. Also read the FTC’s publication “What To Do If Your Personal Information Has Been Compromised".
- Know about the advantages and disadvantages of opting-out.
- Know about Credit Freeze and Security Breach Notification Laws.
As you receive responses, maintain copies of all correspondence and a log of what forms were submitted, what calls were made, what was said, the date and time, to whom, and by whom. When you mail anything, be sure it is a registered letter with a date stamp, time stamp, and return receipt. When you submit an online form, be sure the copy you save or print has the current date and, if possible, current time. You need to continue this process until all the information in your credit file is accurate. Once the information is accurate, continue monitoring the information. There is no guarantee false information will not find its way back into your file.
Should you find that a company has received a stolen or forged check from you, contact the appropriate major check verification company and your state’s banking department. Check verification companies can be found at http://www.identitytheft.org and the Consumer Debit Resource.
Should you find on your credit report that bankruptcy has been filed in your name, contact an attorney who specializes in consumer protection or identity theft. It isn’t a bad idea when you find accounts in your credit report that you did not open, apply for, or request, to have a criminal background search done on yourself. Should you find criminal activity associated with your name, social security number, and/or identification, immediately contact an attorney who specializes in consumer protection or identity theft.
Consumers have an option to use the services of legitimate companies that specialize in identity theft recovery. One such company is RelyData.
In addition to getting a free copy of annual credit reports, you can order free annual copies of other reports.
- ChexSystems for a database of mismanaged checking and savings accounts.
- Choice Point for CLUE, the insurance industry’s database of property loss claims, your employment and tenant history reports.
- Consumer Debit Resource for bank account history.
- The MIB (Medical Information Bureau) for medical information shared by insurance companies. Your information should only be in here if you applied for individual (not group) underwritten disability, health or life insurance in the past seven years.