What to Do if Your Identity is Stolen
Do These Three Things Immediately
- Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus –
Report that your identity has been stolen. Ask that a fraud alert be placed on your file and that no new credit be granted without your approval. At the same time, order copies of your credit reports from the credit bureaus.
Credit bureaus must give you a free copy of your report if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, and you request it in writing. Review your reports carefully to make sure no additional fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or unauthorized changes made to your existing accounts.
You can get a free copy of your credit reports from annualcreditreport.com. if you have not already ordered a free copy in the past year. But if you have, follow the directions on the fraud alert confirmation you will receive from each of the reporting credit bureaus.
Also, check the section of your report that lists inquiries. Where inquiries appear from the company(ies) that opened the fraudulent account(s), request that these inquiries be removed from your report. In a few months, order new copies of your reports to verify your corrections and changes, and to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
To report fraud . . .
You will only need to place a fraud alert through one of these three credit bureaus. That company will inform the other two.
- Contact the creditors or financial institutions where fraudulent accounts have been opened –
Ask to speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each creditor, and follow up with a letter. It's particularly important to notify credit card companies in writing because that's the consumer protection procedure the law spells out for resolving errors on credit card billing statements.
Ask them to close or freeze your account so no one can add any additional charges unless you agree. Change your login and password and/or PINS. Make sure to create a strong password that incorporates numbers, special characters, and capital letters so it is unique and not found in a dictionary.
If there are fraudulent charges on your account, tell the company/creditor which charges are fraudulent and ask them to remove them from the account.
- Report the identity theft to the FTC. -
You can complete an online form or call them at 1-877.438.4338. IdentityTheft.gov will create the identity theft report and provide you with a recovery plan.
The FTC website will allow you to create a personal recovery plan if you are the object of identity theft.
You also might choose to file a report with your local police or the police where the identity theft took place –
Get a copy of the report in case the credit union, bank, credit card company, or others need proof of the crime later on.
Your next steps for certain accounts
There's no question that identity thieves can wreak havoc on your personal finances, however there are some things you can do to take control of the situation. For example:
- Stolen mail –
If an identity thief has stolen your mail to get new credit cards, financial institution statements, pre-screened credit offers, or tax information, or if an identity thief has falsified change-of-address forms, that's a crime. Report it to your local postal inspector. Contact your local post office for the phone number for the nearest postal inspection service office or check the Postal Service web site at https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/.
- Change of address on credit card accounts –
If you discover that an identity thief has changed the billing address on an existing credit card account, close the account. When you open a new account, ask that a password be used before any inquiries or changes can be made on the account. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers. Avoid using the same information and numbers when you create a PIN.
- Credit Union and Bank accounts –
If you have reason to believe that an identity thief has tampered with your credit union or bank accounts, checks or ATM card, close the accounts immediately. When you open new accounts, insist on password-only access to minimize the chance that an identity thief can violate the accounts.
If your ATM card has been lost, stolen or otherwise compromised, cancel the card as soon as you can and get another with a new PIN.
- Investments –
If you believe that an identity thief has tampered with your securities investments or a brokerage account, immediately report it to your broker or account manager and to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
You can file a complaint with the SEC by visiting the Complaint Center at www.sec.gov/complaint.shtml. Be sure to include as much detail as possible. Or you can write to the SEC at: SEC Complaint Center, 100 F Street NE, Washington, DC 20549-0213, or call 202.551.6551.
- Phone service –
If an identity thief has established new phone service in your name; is making unauthorized calls that seem to come from – and are billed to – your cellular phone; or is using your calling card and PIN, contact your service provider immediately to cancel the account and/or calling card. Open new accounts and choose new PINs.
If you are having trouble getting fraudulent phone charges removed from your account, contact your state Public Utility Commission for local service providers or the Federal Communications Commission for long-distance service providers and cellular providers at www.fcc.gov/complaints.html or 888.CALL.FCC
- Employment –
If you believe someone is using your Social Security number to apply for a job or to work, that's a crime. Report it to the SSA's Fraud Hotline at 800.269.0271. Also call SSA at 800.772.1213 to verify the accuracy of the earnings reported on your Social Security number, and to request a copy of your Social Security Statement. Follow up your calls in writing.
- Driver's license –
If you suspect that your name or Social Security number is being used by an identity thief to get a driver's license or a non-driver's ID card, contact your Department or Registry of Motor Vehicles. If your state uses your Social Security number as your driver's license number, ask to substitute another number.
- Bankruptcy –
If you believe someone has filed for bankruptcy using your name, write to the U.S. Trustee in the Region where the bankruptcy was filed. A listing of the U.S. Trustee Program's Regions can be found at www.usdoj.gov/ust, or look in the Blue Pages of your phone book under U.S. Government – Bankruptcy Administration.
Your letter should describe the situation and provide proof of your identity. The U.S. Trustee, if appropriate, will make a referral to criminal law enforcement authorities if you provide appropriate documentation to substantiate your claim. You also may want to file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney and/or the FBI in the city where the bankruptcy was filed.
- Criminal records/arrests –
In rare instances, an identity thief may create a criminal record under your name. For example, your impostor may give your name when being arrested. If this happens to you, you may need to hire an attorney to help resolve the problem. The procedures for clearing your name vary by jurisdiction.
Should I apply for a new Social Security Number?
Under certain circumstances, SSA may issue you a new Social Security number – at your request – if, after trying to resolve the problems brought on by identity theft, you continue to experience problems.
Consider this option carefully. A new Social Security number may not resolve your identity theft problems, and may actually create new problems.
For example, a new Social Security number does not necessarily ensure a new credit record because credit bureaus may combine the credit records from your old Social Security number with those from your new Social Security number. Even when the old credit information is not associated with your new Social Security number, the absence of any credit history under your new Social Security number may make it more difficult for you to get credit.
For more information on this subject, see
Where to Go for More Help
The Federal Trade Commission's and other web sites have much more information on preventing and responding to identity theft. Here are important links to this information.
- The Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information website contains much information about identity theft.
- File an ID Theft Complaint with the FTC – The FTC collects complaints from identity theft victims and shares their information with law enforcement nationwide. This information may also be shared with other government agencies, consumer reporting agencies, and companies where the fraud was perpetrated to help resolve identity theft problems.
- Identity Theft Resource Center has resources for victims and consumers. It also has information about ID Theft in the workplace.