Damage Control for Identity Theft Victims

You receive a call from your credit card company inquiring about a large purchase in progress using your account that you know nothing about. Or perhaps you get a bill from a debt collector relating to an account that you didn’t open. These are some of the ways that people learn they have been the victims of identity theft. If it happens to you, it’s important to act quickly. Here are some of the steps you should take.  

  • Report the problem. If you know that your identity or account has been misused with a certain retailer, financial institution or other organization, or that a credit or ATM card has been stolen, call the related organization immediately to report it. Change any PINs, passwords or logins related to the card or account.
  • Go online to the Federal Trade Commission’s site at www.IdentityTheft.gov to report what’s happened and create a report you can use to demonstrate that you’ve been a victim.
  • If fraudulent bank or investment accounts or lines of credit have been opened in your name, close them and ask the organizations involved to remove any inappropriate charges.
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This step, which is free, will make it more difficult for new accounts to be opened in your name. Contact one of the three credit rating agencies—Equifax, Experian or TransUnion—with your request and ask them to pass your request on to the other agencies. The initial alert will last 90 days, but you can choose to extend it.
  • Ask the credit agencies to send you a free copy of your credit report. Check for other signs that your identify has been misused—such as bogus accounts set up in your name–and let the related organizations know that fraud has been committed. Ask the agencies to correct your reports.
  • Carefully review other account statements for unauthorized activity.
  • Consider a credit freeze. When you make this request to the credit rating agencies, they won’t share your credit report with new creditors, which prevents thieves from opening new accounts. There may be a fee for this service, but it could be waived if you have experienced identity theft.
  • Consider contacting the police to report the fraudulent activity. Get a copy of the police report in case you need it later to document the crime.
  • Replace any identification that was stolen. For your Social Security card, request a new one by calling 800-772-1213. Report and replace a missing or misused driver’s license to your local motor vehicle bureau. For a missing passport, contact the U.S. State Department at 877-487-2778 or complete a Statement Regarding a Lost or Stolen U.S. Passport Book And/Or Card (Form DS-64) and submit it as noted on the form.
  • Keep a record of these and all the other steps you take in case you need proof of any fraudulent activity and your steps to address it.
  • Remain vigilant and continue to review your credit reports and account statements for signs of misuse.