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What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen

You should act immediately to protect yourself.

When Your Identity Has Been Stolen

It can be a shock to suddenly get phone calls from collection agencies and letters from credit bureaus attempting to resolve issues for accounts you don’t know about. That’s when it becomes clear that you’ve had your identity stolen.


Identity theft is a silent crime that can hurt you now with loss of finances, and in the future with damage to your credit and reputation.


A recent Harris Poll reported that almost 60 million Americans have been affected by identity theft. In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission processed 1.4 million fraud reports totaling $1.48 billion in losses, according to Consumer Affairs.


You need to act fast when you suspect your identity has been stolen.


If You’re A Victim Of Identity Theft, Here’s What To Do

Here are the steps to take when your identity has been stolen.


Call your credit card issuers and financial institutions


Let these companies know you are an identity theft victim so they can advise you on appropriate next steps. This may involve closing or freezing accounts that have been breached.


Place an initial fraud alert or freeze on your credit reports


Request that a one-year fraud alert be placed on your credit file by contacting one of the national credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. The agency you contact is required to reach out to the other two and let them know you are a victim of identity theft. Also request a copy of your credit report.


You may also freeze your credit report, which typically remains in effect until you remove it. In some states, it expires after seven years. If you freeze your credit report, you must contact all three agencies separately. Check with the credit bureaus to find out the laws in your state before making this move.


Equifax Alerts


Equifax Consumer

Fraud Division

P.O. Box 105069

Atlanta, GA 30374

Experian Fraud Center



P.O. Box 9554

Allen, TX 75013


TransUnion Fraud Alert


TransUnion Fraud Victim

Assistance Department

P.O. Box 2000

Chester, PA 19016


Block damaging information in credit reports


Ask credit reporting agencies to block any information in your file that is the result of identity theft. Indications of unpaid debts incurred due to identity theft will remain on your credit report unless you take steps to remove them.


Report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission


Complete the FTC’s online complaint form for reporting fraud or call 1-877-438-4338. Print and retain a copy of this report, known as your Identity Theft Affidavit, and save the complaint reference number.


Contact your local police department


File a police report to document the crime. Bring your Identity Theft Affidavit, any other proof of the theft, government-issued photo identification and proof of address.


Watch for fraudulent transactions or accounts


Keep an eye on your bank accounts and credit accounts for fraudulent activity. This will help you respond quickly if somebody is using your identity. In fact, this is a step that should be undertaken whether or not you suspect your identity has been stolen.


Work with creditors


Ask creditors or other businesses for records related to transactions or accounts connected to identity theft. You should ask in writing and may need to provide proof of your identity, a police report and an FTC Identity Theft Affidavit.


Reach out to debt collectors


Ask debt collectors for any information about debt incurred due to identity theft.


Stop businesses from filing incorrect reports


When you reach out to companies, ask that they stop reporting inaccurate information due to the identity theft to the credit bureaus. Also ask them to report the revised, correct information. You’ll need to identify what information you don’t want reported and provide a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit.


Contact the Internal Revenue Service


Check to make sure your tax identity hasn’t also been compromised. Someone could file a tax return in your name, attempting to receive a fraudulent refund. Make sure you respond to any IRS notices that may alert you to fraudulent activity.


Seek out other appropriate companies


If accounts have been opened in your name, contact the fraud department of each company in which an account was opened to advise them of the situation. Follow up in writing and include any supporting documentation. Request written verification that each dispute has been resolved and fraudulent debts discharged.


Keep complete records


Retain copies of all written correspondence and maintain a complete record of all the contacts you make with authorities. Write down names, titles and phone numbers in case you need to recontact them or refer to them in future correspondence.


Other fraud to watch out for


Some compromises can target specific types of information. Here are a few more types and what to do about them.


  • Social Security - If you suspect your Social Security number was used without your knowledge, or your card has been lost or stolen, you need to act quickly. Report a stolen card to the responsible government agency at Managed by the Federal Trade Commission, this is the federal government’s one-stop resource for identity theft victims. Also, file a police report and complete the additional steps outlined above. To request a replacement card, call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 or do so online.
  • Driver’s License - An identity thief could use your driver’s license or any other state ID. Report your lost or stolen license and apply for a replacement as soon as possible.
  • Mail Fraud - Report any crimes involving stolen mail or use of mail in a fraudulent scheme.
  • Health Care - Contact your health insurer to advise them of any identity theft. Criminals may use your health care information to obtain benefits.


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