For fifteen consecutive years, identity theft has remained one of the top consumer complaints in the United States. An estimated 15 million identities are obtained and fraudulently used in the United States each year resulting in over $50 billion in losses*.
The most effective way to respond to stolen personal information or its unauthorized use is for the victim to face the issue head on. The victim is the primary individual who will be able to restore their identity and take measures to correct damage done by the thief.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there are certain steps one should take in order to limit the potential damage.
1. Contact Fraud Departments.
Contact the fraud departments of the companies where you know the fraud occurred. Explain that someone has stolen your identity and ask them to close or freeze your account to prevent any new charges. Change your PINS, passwords, and logins.
2. Contact Credit Bureaus
Next, contact one of the following three credit bureaus:
- Equifax: http://www.equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance/ or call 1-888-766-0008
- Experian: https://www.experian.com/fraud/center.html or call 1-888-397-3742
- Transunion: http://www.transunion.com/fraud or call 1-800-680-7289
Placing a fraud alert makes it more difficult for someone to open new accounts with your information.
3. Get a Credit Report
A credit report should be obtained immediately through a trusted site such as https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action or by calling 1-877-322-8228. Carefully review your credit report for any information you do not recognize.
4. Complete Online Complaint Forms
When reporting identity theft to the FTC, complete the online complaint form at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1. Provide as many details as possible. With this information, the FTC will create your Identity Theft Affidavit. Immediately print and save your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit, as you will no longer be able to access and obtain it once you leave the page. Reports or updates to your affidavit can also be filed by calling 1-877-438-4338.
5. File a Police Report
File a report with your local police department. Go to your local police office with the following items:
- A copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit
- Government issued identification that includes a photo
- Proof of your address
- The FTC’s Memo to Law Enforcement available as a PDF document at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/articles/pdf/pdf-0088-ftc-memo-law-enforcement.pdf
Inform the police that someone has stolen your identity and that you need to file a report. Your local police department is required to file a report. If they appear hesitant to file a report, present them with the FTC’s Memo to Law Enforcement. Obtain a copy of the police report for your records. Combining your Identity Theft Affidavit with the Police Report makes up your Identity Theft Report.
6. Contact Businesses with Fraudulent Accounts
Now that you have an Identity Theft Report, call the fraud department of each business where you believe a new account was opened. Explain your situation and ask to close the account and for a letter confirming that the fraudulent account is not yours, nor are you responsible for it, and that it will be removed from your credit report. Depending on the business, they may have you send a copy of the Identity Theft Report or have you complete their special dispute form. Save the confirmation letter for your own records.
7. Send Letters of Explanation to Credit Bureaus
Contact each of the three credit bureaus with a letter explaining your predicament, specifying which accounts or charges in your name came from identity theft. Note that you want them to remove (or block) this information. Be sure to include the following items with your letter:
- A copy of your Identity Theft Report
- Proof of your identity (name, address, and Social Security Number)
A sample letter is available at https://www.identitytheft.gov/sample-letters/identity-theft-credit-bureau.html. Information regarding the three credit bureaus is listed below:
Depending on the issue at hand and the severity of the security breach, it may be beneficial to consider adding an extended fraud alert or freeze on your credit. A chart describing the benefits of an extended fraud alert or a credit freeze is available online at https://www.identitytheft.gov/. Additional steps may be necessary to prevent any further harm and are also listed on the aforementioned website.
Acting as promptly as possible will be beneficial but know that often it takes years before a stolen identity is discovered. By then quite a bit of damage could already be done. Therefore, prevention is your best safeguard. For more information on how to protect your identity, please check out articles by Keystone Investigative Services, Inc. at www.keystoneis.com
*information gathered from public and private sources
About the Authors
Kelly Cory and Lisa Hamoui are with Keystone Investigative Services, Inc., a professional investigative agency specializing in litigation support and complex investigations. Our experienced investigative team is regularly retained for their expertise in background, asset, locate and field investigations. Lead investigator Kelly Cory has been interviewed on the topic of database research and educates on the importance of information security. Learn more about Keystone Investigative Services, Inc. by calling (626) 676-5170 or by visiting www.keystoneis.com. “More of What You’re Looking For.”
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