5 Steps To Take If Your Identity Is Stolen

The website DebtConsolidationCare receives letters like this all the time, “O Heavens! I found that my master card has been stolen from my purse when I had gone to a party. Someone took out $500 from it. I found it out when I saw the billing statement. What shall I do now? What shall I do to get out of this whole thing? I am planning to close the account. What else should I do?” According to their statistics, every minute, 20 people are affected by identity theft which adds up to about 10 million a year. To help people like these, DebtConsolidationCare has put together a list of 5 steps you should take if your identity is stolen. Check out the list, inside…

“Step 1: Place a fraud alert on your credit files and monitor your credit reports regularly.”
Contact at least one, but preferably, all three of the credit reporting companies and tell them to place a fraud alert on your credit report. Also provide a “victim’s statement” asking them to notify you before making changes on current accounts or opening new accounts. You can reach the credit bureaus a few different ways:

Equifax : 1-800-525-6285; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Experian : 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

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

There are also several other ways to get your credit report and a monitoring service.

“Step 2: Close the accounts that you know, or believe, are not opened by you or have been tampered.”
Call each creditor and close any account that has been compromised by the identity thief. Request that the accounts be “closed by creditor’s request,” a simple “closed account” can reflect negatively on your credit report. Ask each creditor to send you the transaction records the identity thief made on your account. Creditors must provide this service, and do so at no charge.

If you encounter difficulty getting these records, send your requests by certified mail with return receipt requested so you have a document of when the creditor received your request.

“Step 3: File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) .”
You can file a complaint with the FTC online by filling out an online complaint form or you can call them at the Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877- 438-4338; TTY: 1-866-653-4261. You can also notify them by sending a letter to Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.

“Step 4: Contact your local police or the police in that community where the identity theft took place and lodge a complaint.”
Contact and inform your local police department about the crime and submit as much proof as you can. It is recommended to supply them with a copy of your FTC ID Complaint form, your cover letter and any other paperwork that support your claims of identity theft. Once you make sure the police report contains all the affected accounts, send it to all the applicable creditors.

“Step 5: Change all your account passwords.”
If the identity theft involves your ATM or debit card, change their PINs. Add passwords to any account that doesn’t have one and avoid obvious passwords.

5 Steps To Take If Your Identity Is Stolen [DebtConsolidationCare]
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. Amy Alkon000 says:

    Please, please, please…consider freezing your credit. After women with fake driver’s licenses in my name with the wrong expiration date went to Bank of America, which required no PIN, just the fake driver’s license and my account number on a slip from the bank lobby to get my money out…on seven occasions…the women moved on to Wal-Mart, Kmart, and Target, and Target again, and tried to open instant credit accounts there.

    My life has been a total nightmare in the wake of BofA’s spectacular negligence, but my life as I know it would be over had I not had freezes on each of my credit bureau accounts. It costs $10 per account and you get a PIN number to unfreeze it with.

    In my case, this meant that when these women went to these stores to try to get credit in my name, they did not get it — instead, a month later, I got letters saying, “We’re so sorry we couldn’t grant you credit…did you forget you had a freeze on?”

    What happens with a freeze is that there’s a giant wall up — the companies can’t even check your credit.

    I froze my accounts in 2005, on the advice of my late friend Cathy Seipp, and that $30 I spent is probably the wisest $30 I’ve ever spent in my life.

    Please, please, consider doing this. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the USA, per the FBI, and I am unlike probably anyone but security expert Bruce Schneier in the way I protect my personal data (I don’t use checks, which I consider risky instruments, never pay with a debit card, get mail at home only in my dog’s name, etc.) If this can happen to me, it can happen to EVERYONE.

    Here’s an article on freezing from USA Today.

    [www.usatoday.com]

    43 states now allow you to freeze your credit.

    P.S. If you’re a victim of identity theft, Mari Frank is THE expert, and has written a book I bought for $39, including all the letters you need to write to credit bureaus, etc., and it’s worth every penny.

    Here’s her site:

    [www.identitytheft.org]

  2. MissTicklebritches says:

    Thanks, Jay and Amy.

  3. AdvocatesDevil says:

    @Amy Alkon: Best post ever on this site, by far. Except you forgot to blame the original poster for something. Otherwise, well done!

  4. Caslonbold says:

    Check your credit reports every month or two.

    I had someone steal my car. The crack head car thief took my name from my car insurance card stored inside the car and opened a Verizon land line account, a Comcast account, electric and gas account. No SS# required or credit check required to open any of these accounts. They ran up the bills for as long as they could even calling the companies to ask for payment plans to drag it out as long as possible. When the services were disconnected they sent the final bills to the fake address the car thief provided when he signed up. Of course I had no idea any of this was happening as NONE of these type of accounts show up on your credit reports as active accounts. I found out about the identity theft AFTER these companies put the accounts in for collections and they were now appearing on my credit report as negative tradelines, 6 years after the car theft.

    Seems that this happens alot. Verizon has some fraud division and the people there told me accounts are fraudulent accounts are opened in other people’s names all the time. Scary. Anyone can open an account in any name and get service with no proof of identity.

    It took police reports, the FTC ID complaint form, hundreds of hours, endless phone calls to collection agencies, 5 years of follow ups and a credit freeze to finally get all the negatives off my credit report and clean up the situation. Having the car stolen was minor compared to the time and effort involved with cleaning up the stolen identity issue.

    Moral of the story – don’t store anything in your car with your name/address on it. Even if your car is only broken into and they steal some mail or your car registration they have your identity.

  5. sventurata says:

    *deep breath*

    Having a credit card stolen is NOT identity theft. “Identity Theft is a crime in which an impostor obtains key pieces of personal identifying information (PII) such as Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers and uses them for their own personal gain.” Some might argue that financial services can be obtained from a Visa, but in the fraud industry, it’s more like loans, etc.

    Consult the ID Theft Center: [www.idtheftcenter.org] for a lengthier definition.

  6. John says:

    The credit reporting companies now allow you to freeze your credit reports in ALL states, even those that don’t have laws for it. It just costs $5 more per company to do it.

  7. jailsis says:

    The timing of this article as it relates to my life is scary.

    Several weeks ago I found out that my brother is in a Federal Detention Center (read: prison). Only immediate family members are permitted to visit, and since my last name is different than my brother’s (because I was married), I was required to provide ALL kinds of information such as full name, address, SSN, DOB, etc. as well as a copy of my marriage license, before they will allow me to visit.

    Fast forward three weeks and my brother informs me that the guy in charge of doing the ‘investigation’ notified him that my paperwork was “lost” and that I need to resend it.

    My entire ID. Lost. In a Federal Prison. Grrrrrreat.

    I already put a 90-hold on my credit through all 3 credit bureaus, but I had no idea that you could actually freeze them. As far as I’m concerned, $30 is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

  8. Grabraham says:

    @sventurata: Like many other words ‘Identity Theft’ is not going to stick to a set definition. You may as well argue with the geeks about Hacker v Cracker or Trekkie v Trekker. To most people, someone using their credit card to make purchases in their name = impersonating them = stealing their identity. Feel free to wave the flag and shout you are using the word incorrectly but you will not win ;)

  9. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @sventurata: Most people know that, but for the sake of discussion (and brevity), “identity theft” is the catch-all phrase.

    @Caslonbold: That’s insane. The companies who were so lax in granting the credit should take the hit AND be legally liable for making the victim whole; maybe then, we’ll start to see some actual effort involved in stopping these types of fraud.

  10. Binaryslyder says:

    Correction:

    You do not have to file a report with all three credit reporting agencies. There is a law on the books that requires them to notify each other automatically when you file a complaint with one.

  11. Whether you decide to place a credit freeze or a fraud alert on your credit file, keep in mind that this will not 100% protect you against ID theft. It is true that creditors are SUPPOSED to call the number on the fraud alert before granting credit, or in the case of the freeze, deny it altogether. The fact is that in todays credit-easy culture many creditors will ignore the fraud alert or not check your credit to begin with. And this isn’t againt the law for them to do so. Fraud alerts do not REQUIRE anyone to call you before granting credit, and there is no law that says that a creditor has to check your credit file before granting credit.

    I’m not a huge fan of credit freezes because I think it gives people a false sense of security, and that can be more dangerous than anything sometimes.

    The best thing to do if you have become a victim (after taking all the excellent advice above) is to get credit monitoring through at least one of the bureaus, or at the very least continue to monitor your credit reports regularly.

    There unfortunately is no easy fix at all.

    (One other link to advise as well is the USPS site for ID theft, which is pretty well done-
    For Mail Fraud- [postalinspectors.uspis.gov]
    For ID Theft -
    [postalinspectors.uspis.gov])

  12. pantsonfire says:

    Last year some piece of trash started using my info in a town about 45 minutes from where I live. I could tell it was not a high priority to the police so I began pressuring local businesses for info on the guy. I figured out where he lived and was able to ID him based on a surveillance video I coerced a local department store manager into giving me. My friends and I decided a citizen’s arrest was in order (needless to say he resisted). The cops warned us against self-help in these cases, but other than that he had no problem taking the bloody (literally and figuratively) jackass to jail. To add insult to his injury, I sued him for 7500 in small claims court, basically everything he and his wife had, I won and had very little trouble collecting. I am pretty satisfied with the outcome so far.

  13. poetry1mind says:

    This is a very importatant post and it has hit home with me a couple of times. My mother and my sister both committed idenity theft on me when I was 18-22. It took me about 7 years to fix what they did to me.

    The horrible part is that the credit collectors treat the victim as if they are the criminals. I had so much trouble convincing them that it was not my account. Going to the police station was also hell because they treated me the same way. So from 1997-2005, I would would receive collection bills and letters to appear in court for accounts that I didn’t have and I would get numerous threatening phone calls from collectors. I spent a good 1000 hrs in those seven years researching how to represent myself in court or how to fight debt.

    It’s not easy. I don’t care what article you read, it is never easy. I probably spent about $500 dollars by sending certified mail to different companies, to never hear back a response.

    In 2005 I was lucky enough to find a lawyer that represented me for no charge. He went after the credit card, utility and credit reporting agenciens and won alot of money. I probably saw about $7000 total out of the $40,000 they made. It was never about the money for me. I just finally wanted to be able to fill out an application for an apartment or apply for a loan if I needed.

    I had to wait until I was 27 to be able to get a real credit card. Having gone through this has made me a very paranoid consumer. As an adult, I literally get worried if I have too much of a bill that I can’t pay.

    Lesson learned: Trust no one and sometimes you have to watch after your own flesh and blood. Also it is important to check your credit report, atleast 3 times a year. There is no excuse since we are able to get it one free a year.

  14. gr8chief says:

    The guy that stole my idenity had the same name as me. I knew he was in financial trouble and was going to knock on his door and ask to look around since I would probably be owning it. He ended up going to prison on another charge.

    Identitytheft.org is a great site to answer all of your questions.