How to Report Identity Theft - Reporting Identity Theft

One of the most frustrating parts about identity theft is that it usually happens without the victim’s knowledge. Those who do know that they are at increased risk can take the necessary steps in order to add a layer of protection, but many people will not even realize there is a problem until outright identity theft has happened.

If you were not in time to stop the information misappropriation from leading to outright identity theft, immediately follow these four steps recommended by the United States Federal Government.

First, place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This can be done by calling any of the “Big Three,“ as they are legally obligated to advise each other of the problem. It is also advisable to send a follow up letter confirming their phone call, as well.

Here is contact information for each of the three major credit report sources:

  • 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
  • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

After placing the fraud alert, obtain copies of your credit reports. Existing law entitles you to free copies of your report when a fraud alert is at issue. Review the reports very carefully, looking for anything that seems inconsistent, strange or that you do not easily recognise. The nomenclature used on these reports can sometimes be difficult to understand, so you should take some time to learn exactly how to “read” the reports.

Demand correction of any inaccurate information and double check to make sure your requested changes make it into all three of the reports. Additionally, you will want to continue carefully monitoring your reports for at least a year to eighteen months following the event to make sure nothing else shows up that is incorrect.

It is also advisable to then check again at the two year mark.

If a checking account or checkbook was involved in the theft of identity, you may also want to contact the major check processing companies. Their names and phone numbers are provided here:

  • CheckRite -- (800) 766-2748
  • ChexSystems -- (800) 428-9623 (closed checking accounts)
  • CrossCheck -- (800) 552-1900
  • Equifax -- (800) 437-5120
  • National Processing Co. (NPC) -- (800) 526-5380
  • SCAN -- (800) 262-7771
  • TeleCheck -- (800) 710-9898

Secondly, you should close any account you think may have been inappropriately opened or that was wrongly accessed or used by the identity theft. You will need to call and talk with someone from each bank and company, explaining the situation.

Federal officials recommend following up these account closure calls with letter sent via certified mail with a return receipt required. Supply the companies with supporting documentation, as well as your letter. Keep all of this material well organized and available for future reference.

After closing your existing accounts, open new ones. When you do this, be sure you are issued with a different account number and that you protect them with new and different passwords and PIN's or Personal Identification numbers. Do not rely on easily obtainable, or already stolen, information to generate those numbers and passwords.

If you have discovered that an identity thief misused any of your accounts, you must immediately dispute all of those charges. Most companies will provide you with a form you can use for this purpose.

If the thief opened new accounts using your information, request fraud dispute forms from the company to invalidate the account.

Do not take a company’s word via telephone that the matter has been appropriately resolved. Insist upon a letter clearly stating that the account is closed and that the fraudulent charges have been discharged. This will not only give you peace of mind, it can also serve as evidence you can use if the account should appear on your credit reports in the future or if any collection efforts on the account are ever directed toward you.

Thirdly. you should contact your local law enforcement agency and notify them of the theft. Identity theft may not be as obvious as a stolen car or burglarized home, but it is a very real crime and must be reported. The police report can also be used to assist you when dealing with creditors and others as you work to make sure all fraudulent activity involving your name is not held against you.

Finally, you should let the Federal Trade Commission know about the incident. By filing a complaint, you will be providing law enforcement officials with the kind of information they will need to uncover identity thieves.

You may contact the FTC with a complaint online at www.consumer.gov/idtheft, via telephone or by letter.

The Identity theft hotline can be reached toll free at 1-877-ID-THEFT.

Letters can be addressed to:

Identity Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580

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