Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It’s a serious crime that can wreak havoc with your finances, credit history, and reputation — and can take time, money, and patience to resolve.
What to Do
Place an Initial Fraud Alert
Three national credit reporting companies keep records of your credit history. If someone has misused your personal or financial information, call 1 of the companies and ask for an initial fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert is free. You must provide proof of your identity. The company you call must tell the other companies about your alert.
An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. When you have an alert on your report, a business must verify your identity before it issues credit, so it may try to contact you. The initial alert stays on your report for at least 90 days. You can renew it after 90 days. It allows you to order one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies. Be sure the credit reporting companies have your current contact information so they can get in touch with you.
Credit Reporting Companies
Order Your Credit Reports
Now that you’ve placed an initial fraud alert, you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies. The credit reporting company that you call will explain your rights and how you can get a free copy of your credit report. Order the report and ask the company to show only the last four digits of your Social Security number on your report.
If you know which of your accounts have been tampered with, contact the related businesses. Talk to someone in the fraud department, and follow up in writing. Send your letters by certified mail; ask for a return receipt. That creates a record of your communications.
Create an Identity Theft Report
- Submit a report about the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). When you finish writing all the details, print a copy of the report. It will be called an Identity Theft Affidavit.
- Bring your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit when you file a police report.
- File a police report about the identity theft, and get a copy of the police report or the report number. Your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit and your police report make an Identity Theft Report.
--Content for this page was derived from the Federal Trade Commission's website.