It only takes a few simple steps to report identity theft. Act now to clear up your good name, repair your credit reports, stop additional fraud, and end the devastating financial and emotional harm caused by credit card fraud and other financial crimes.
What is identity theft
Identity theft is the fraudulent procurement of your private financial information, credit cards, debit cards, bank accounts or retirement accounts. It can also include impersonating you to obtain goods or services. Most cases involve credit cards, housing, medical care. Others include dental care, insurance, workers compensation benefits, unemployment benefits, Social Security benefits, and even employment. Identity theft can also occur when the thief uses your identity to commit other crimes to conceal their true identities.
What are the steps to reporting identity theft?
Here are seven easy steps to reporting identity theft properly.
- Set Fraud Alerts
Set an initial fraud alert with at least one of the three major credit bureaus. Only one is needed because the credit bureaus are required to alert each other when you report identity theft to one of the three credit bureaus. If you want to be sure fraud alerts are placed with all three credit bureaus then feel free to contact all three. It doesn’t take much time to take this first step to report identity theft and doing so will give you a little additional peace of mind.
- Order Free Credit Reports
Obtain your free annual credit reports and review them closely to identify which accounts are the result of identity theft. Your credit reports will help you in preparing the rest of you identity theft report and prevent you from missing accounts that were the result of fraud.
- Complete an FTC Identity Theft Affidavit
Complete an identity theft affidavit from the Federal Trade Commission. Be sure to fill it out accurately and completely. You can be criminally prosecuted for lying in an identity theft affidavit. If you don’t want to use the FTC identity theft affidavit on the FTC website, that is completely fine. Simply download the FTC identity theft affidavit from here, print it out, and use it for the next step. The FTC won’t help you anyway so there is no requirement to use the FTC website report the fraud or to fill out the FTC identity theft affidavit.
- File a Police Report
File a police report about the fraud whether you know the perpetrator or not. No, the police probably won’t do anything to actually help. Filing a police report of the fraud is still helpful as the police identity theft report itself is often required part of clearing up your credit information resulting from identity theft.
- Notify the Three Major Credit Bureaus
Contact the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, Equifax) in writing and request they delete the information that is the result of identity theft. Identify the information clearly and include a copy of the police report and identity theft report and FTC affidavit to prove your request is valid. You must also include proof of your identity and residency so send a copy of your power bill and driver’s license to assure your identity theft report is accepted and binding.
- Notify the Creditors, Credit Card Companies, and Debt Collectors
Contact each creditor and debt collector involved and close all accounts that are the result of identity theft. As you did earlier, include a copy of the police report and identity theft report and FTC affidavit. When you close the accounts also ask the lender to send you all the documentation it has about the account. This will later help with the investigation of the identity theft. Send the creditors and debt collectors the same proof of residency and identity as you sent to the credit bureaus.
- Set an Extended Fraud Alert
The final step to correctly report identity theft is to set an extended fraud alert on your credit reports. This alert is valid for seven years and works well to prevent future theft of your identity from occurring during that time. Set up the extended fraud alert by mailing a letter, the FTC affidavit, police report, proof of your identity, and proof of your residency with at least one of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax) to be sure all of your credit reports are locked down. Yes, this is the same information you already sent but providing it again assures your credit will get locked down as quickly as possible.
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How do I get my free credit report
Get a free copy of your credit report at each nationwide credit bureau once every 12 months through www.annualcreditreport.com. You may also get free credit reports at www.creditkarma.com. Credit Karma will up-sell you everything under the sun so we recommend sticking with their free services.
Each of the credit bureaus also have programs to provide your credit reports. Some are paid services so we recommend using www.annualcreditreport.com once a year for your free credit reports and Credit Karma if you want to periodically check your credit scores.
How do I report identity theft to Equifax
Reporting identity theft to Equifax is as easy as mailing a request or calling Equifax at (888) 836-6351. Equifax also allows you to set up an account online if you prefer that way of reporting. We recommend reporting identity theft to Equifax by mail, however. Its address is:
Equifax Information Services LLC P.O. Box 105069 Atlanta, GA 30348-5069
How do I report identity theft to TransUnion
TransUnion has a special phone number for fraud victims to place a fraud alert on your credit report. Call (800) 680-7289 to report the identity theft to TransUnion and place a fraud alert on your TransUnion credit report. We recommend mailing your request for a fraud alert. TransUnion’s fraud alert address is:
Fraud Victim Assistance Department P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016-2000
How do I report identity theft to Experian
You can report the identity theft to Experian by visiting their Credit Fraud Center. You may also report to Experian by calling their automated system at (888) 397-3742 to add a security alert. You can also request a fraud alert with Experian by mailing them at this address:
Experian P.O. Box 9701 Allen, TX 75013
Does reporting identity theft hurt your credit score?
Reporting identity theft does not hurt your credit score. In many cases it can actually increase your credit score since the identity theft accounts will be removed and permanently blocked from reporting or being calculated as part of your credit score. You should not worry about hurting your credit score by reporting the fraud. Your credit score should also be a secondary factor compared to stopping any collections or reporting of the fraudulent accounts.
Can you put a freeze on your Social Security number?
In most states you can sort of put a freeze on your Social Security number by freezing your credit reports. Once a credit freeze is placed it prevents creditors from opening new accounts without your permission. This doesn’t always work to stop all credit fraud however. Criminal identity theft, rent identity theft, and medical identity theft can all still sneak by the credit freeze.
If you are truly concerned about future credit theft then you should freeze your credit reports if that service is available in your state. It can cost money to freeze and unfreeze your credit reports however so only place the credit report freeze if you are okay with the fees.
Most consumers are protected sufficiently by simply placing the credit report fraud alerts allowed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. These are free to victims of identity theft and can last up to seven years if done correctly.
Are identity theft monitoring services worth it?
In most cases identity theft monitoring services are a complete waste of money. Like credit repair companies and credit repair law firms they are marketing plays meant to take advantage of consumers’ ignorance.
Most consumers will be far better off simply placing the fraud alerts on their credit reports themselves. Hire a real consumer protection attorney. It takes experience to assure the best steps are taken to protect you is the answer if that is too difficult or time-consuming. Even the best identity theft monitoring service is a waste of time and money in most cases.
Does filing a complaint with the FTC do anything?
Filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is fairly meaningless. The FTC won’t help you is most cases. All they do is provide general advice and the form affidavit to send to creditors, credit bureaus, and debt collectors. You can download the FTC Affidavit here to save time.
If you still want to fill out the FTC Complaint Form online you can certainly do so. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for results. You can use the same website to check the status of your FTC Complaint Form at any time.
Even if you use the FTC Complaint Form on their website and regularly check the status of your Federal Trade Commission complaint you still must report the identity fraud to the credit bureaus, creditors, debt collectors, and others on your own. The FTC complaint does not handle that reporting for you.
Which consequences can victims of identity theft face?
Identity theft victims can face serious consequences; especially if they sit on their rights and fail to report identity theft in a timely manner. In addition to lowering your credit score, damaging your credit history, and even potentially locking you out of your credit altogether, identity theft can cause you to lose credit opportunities or have increases in interest rates when trying to obtain future credit.
Identity theft victims also face potential denials for mortgage applications, residential leases, credit card applications, auto loans, employment opportunities, and even insurance denials. These are quite serious consequences of identity theft.
Victims of identity theft may also face more severe consequences. These include losing government security clearances, being deprived of life-saving medical care, or even going to jail for crimes committed by the identity thief imposter. Failing to report the fraud in a timely manner can also result in you actually having liability for the fraudulent debt.
Identity theft victims also often suffer from other consequences such as emotional distress, anxiety, and physical stress as a result of the identity fraud. Victims often feel powerless, fearful, and even shame, embarrassment, or humiliation. These symptoms are even worse when victims are sued for identity theft debts or have their wages garnished unexpectedly.
Damaged credit is only the start of the many potential consequences victims of identity theft face.
How to Know if You’re a Victim of Identity Theft
Look for these signs of potential credit fraud to find out if you’re a victim of identity theft.
- Unfamiliar credit card charges or purchases
- Bank account withdrawals or payments you did not authorize
- Hard inquiries on your credit reports you didn’t authorize
- Letters of denial for accounts, loans, or credit cards you didn’t apply for
- Collection calls for debt that is not yours
- Collection lawsuits for accounts and charges you didn’t authorize
- Wage garnishments for debts you don’t owe
- Stolen IRS tax refund check
- Online bank accounts, credit card accounts, and other online accounts that have locked you out of accessing
- Data breach notifications from banks, credit cards, or other creditors
- Warrants out for your arrest for crimes or criminal charges you were not aware of
In addition to these examples of credit fraud, you may notice other signs of potential identity theft. If you see or hear anything unexpected or unusual with your credit, bank accounts, or online information, you may be a victim of identity theft.
What if a collection agency, debt collector, or credit card company sues me for identity theft debt?
Lawsuits for debt you don’t owe are far too common. Fortunately, following the steps above to report identity theft should clear up most of those lawsuits. If it doesn’t then you should hire a consumer protection attorney immediately. Being sued for a debt you don’t owe can be stressful. Thankfully, an experienced attorney can not only stop these fraudulent collections but make the debt collectors and credit card companies pay you.
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Can I sue for identity theft?
Whether you can sue for identity theft is one of the most important questions about identity theft you might ask. In many cases you can sue for identity theft. In Utah, for example, you can sue the perpetrator. You can also sue the creditor, credit card company, or credit reporting agencies depending on the facts of the case.
Suing Credit Bureaus
Suing the Credit Bureaus for identity theft credit reporting can be an effective way to remove credit reporting information of fraudulent accounts. Credit repair companies can’t sue the credit bureaus so stay away from them at all costs.
The same is true for cookie-cutter credit repair attorneys who masquerade as law firms. They are hacks in every sense of the word. Instead of practicing law they rent their bar licenses to marketing companies. Most of these firms are as corrupt as it gets. Hire a true consumer protection attorney instead.
Suing Debt Collectors
Suing debt collectors for collecting identity theft debts is often very rewarding. These cases can result in awards of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the worst cases. Even small cases the awards usually exceed the amount of the debt. This is why we tell clients not to sue debt collectors in small claims courts or without an attorney. This is also one of many reasons we caution consumers to avoid using template answers to fight in debt collection lawsuits. Indeed, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act attorney’s fees and costs are mandatory so there is little to no risk hiring a competent FDCPA attorney who can properly value your case.
Suing the Perpetrator
Suing the perpetrator for identity theft is usually a waste of time. It is still allowed in some states like Utah. In some cases it can be a great strategy however. Check with an attorney before trying to sue the perpetrator. Suing may be pointless or unnecessary. If the perpetrator is judgment proof it may not be worth pursuing. The same might be true if the criminal court orders him to pay restitution.
Financial compensation for identity theft
The impact credit card and other financial fraud has on your life is hard to measure. Pursuing your rights correctly and quickly is nonetheless crucial to maximize the value of your case. Multiple types of monetary damages are usually available to victims of identity theft. Examples include; compensatory damages to compensate victims for money they lost or spent as a result of the fraud, punitive damages to punish the perpetrator or the banks, credit card companies, and credit bureaus that failed to stop the fraud, equitable relief to stop future fraud or credit reporting in the future, and attorney’s fees to shift the risks and costs of the lawsuit to the perpetrator and other wrongdoers.
How to report identity theft to police
Reporting identity theft to the police is similar to reporting other kinds of credit card fraud, check fraud, embezzlement, theft, or other financial crimes. Sometimes you can report to police online through the police department’s website. Other times you have to call the police to make a report or go to the police station. Years ago, police departments made reporting identity theft to police much harder than it is today. Now, most police departments will take the report without any fuss.
Do police investigate identity theft?
Consumers often ask if police investigate identity theft. The answer is usually no. But that is true of most crimes. Police rarely investigate identity theft, credit card fraud, or other financial crimes. That is because most police departments have no training or knowledge. They can’t track down the perpetrators. Police also often don’t care about these cases. They prefer to take the reports and let the cases sit unsolved. Like any other governmental organization police departments want to perform as little work as possible. Most police departments are improving the way they take reports of identity theft but do not investigate these crimes.
If you were wondering what is identity theft, how identity theft can impact your life, how to report identity theft, or whether you can sue for identity theft, now you know. Correcting most identity theft only takes the simple seven steps explained above. Criminal identity theft, child identity theft, tax identity theft, medical identity theft, and other more complicated identity theft issues may need additional work or other legal help. If the above steps to report identity theft fail, if you need to sue for identity theft, or if more complicated issues arise and you have more questions about identity theft then you should contact an experienced consumer protection attorney to assist you.