How To Report Identity Theft
Identity theft often strikes swiftly. If you become a victim of identity theft, do you really know what to do?
Just imagine: you receive a stomach-churning call from a bank asking you to repay a loan that someone else took out using your name. Or maybe you receive a call inquiring about a new account you recently opened — again, one that someone else decided to open for you. How will you react? Privacy MattersSM offers you a well-designed, easy-to-follow plan that will help you deal with these types of situations.
Act fast and remain calm when dealing with ID theft
First, if you ever become an identity theft victim, you need to act quickly. The speed and efficiency with which you react to an identity theft has a direct impact on out-of-pocket dollars you may spend and the number of headaches you'll have to endure as you restore your identity. Bottom line — be sure to report identity theft immediately. Do not wait.
Another crucial element to dealing with identity theft is your frame of mind. Easier said than done perhaps, but do your best to remain calm. One of the best side effects of the media's focus on identity theft is that most organizations better understand the plight of its victims. The creditors, banks and other organizations you deal with will empathize with your situation.
Take preventative measures — create a plan
Before you do anything else, take time out to prepare a quick-response plan designed to fight identity theft — before it happens. Privacy Matters Identity offers an effective template for creating a plan that includes:
- The contact information for the three main credit reporting agencies, Equifax; Experian; TransUnion
- Both the types and account numbers of all credit cards in your name — including those cards that may have family members as additional authorized users
- Bank and card issuer contact information for all your bank and credit card accounts
- Copies of blank identity theft affidavits
Since it's likely most people panic when they discover they are victims of identity theft, having a clear-cut, personal plan ready will set you on the right road to reporting identity theft properly.
In addition to keeping your identity theft action plan easily accessible, the following steps will help you report identity theft both quickly and properly:
Step #1: Place A Fraud Alert If You Suspect Identity Theft
Notify the three main credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — that you suspect you have been a victim of identity theft. Then ask for a fraud alert to be placed on your credit file.
This will help prevent any further damage if an identity thief has successfully applied for credit in your name, and will prevent further credit abuse.
The three main credit reporting agencies are very aware of how to stop the growing problem of identity theft. And each respective agency usually acts very quickly on such requests. The fraud alert can last up to 180 days, but can be extended by request. This first step is absolutely essential, so contact one of the main agencies immediately.
Step #2: Complete An Identity Theft Affidavit
Your credit card issuer will ask you to complete an affidavit and can be downloaded from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website at http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
The identity theft affidavit has two parts:
- Part 1 asks for your personal information, as well as general information on the theft(s).
- Part 2 asks for information about each specific fraudulent account in question.
You'll need to complete this form when working with creditors and others who may need evidence that you are, in fact, the victim — and are not simply trying to avoid paying your legitimate debts. Don't be offended by this. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes out there, and federal organizations, as well as private and public companies have to be skeptical.
You are also required to send a notarized copy of the affidavit to each affected creditor, along with any information about the accounts fraudulently opened in your name. Remember, you MUST supply a notarized version of the affidavit to affected creditors. Photocopies will not be accepted.
And be sure to always send an ID theft affidavit by certified mail and request a return receipt.
Step #3:. File A Police Report Documenting The Identity Theft
You should also file a report with your local police department. Make sure you file a report with the police department in the city where you live — not where you work, traveled to or where you think the crime may have been committed.
Additionally, make sure you keep a copy of the completed police report as well as names and numbers to contact.
Step #4: Notify Your Bank And Credit Card Companies Of Suspected Identity Theft
Contact all affected bank and credit card companies, and, if necessary, close any affected accounts. If checks have been misused, place a stop order on any outstanding checks to avoid future problems.
Contact any creditors, such as stores or utility companies, with whom your name has been used fraudulently. You should explain the circumstances, offer to provide a copy of the ID theft affidavit and request copies of any documentation, such as loan applications and transaction records. If theft from a bank account is involved, you should close that checking account immediately and open a new one. Additionally,cancel your ATM and credit cards and request new ones. And make sure you always create a new password for any new accounts — one that only you know.
Step #5: Keep A Record Of All Documents Relating To An Identity Theft
Keep copies of all fraudulent transactions and of all correspondence with banks and creditors concerning these transactions.
Step #6: Contact The Postal Inspectors
If mail has been stolen or an identity thief has fraudulently used a mailing address, you should report it to the postal inspectors. You can find the contact information for your nearest office on the USPS website.
Step #7: Contact The IRS
If you suspect that your Social Security number has been misused, you should report it to the Social Security Administration; contact information can be found at irs.gov.
Preparing yourself to respond to identity theft quickly and decisively is critical to controlling the cost and potential anguish of identity theft. Formulate your identity theft action plan, or revamp your existing one to ensure the fastest response time, and follow the steps detailed here. Dealing with identity theft properly starts with knowing how to report it in a timely and organized fashion.