Reporting Identity Theft: How To Do It Without Losing Your Mind

Having your identity compromised or stolen can be a stressful time for anyone who is victimized. You’ll likely feel overwhelmed and wonder how to report identity theft. You’ll want to know what steps to take to clear everything up and prevent it from happening again. It is a multi-step process, but if you follow our guide, you’ll know what immediate actions to take as well as everything you should do after to cover yourself.

Immediate actions

Once you’ve learned that your identity has been compromised, there are a few things you’ll want to do immediately. These are the most important steps about how to report identity theft and the things you need to address as soon as possible.

Contact the Companies Where You Are Sure Fraud has Occurred

If you know where fraud took place, you need to contact the fraud department of each particular company and notify them that your identity has been stolen. Ask the company to freeze or close out the account if possible and change any logins, pins, or passwords associated with them. It is possible you will need an identity theft report before contacting some companies.

Get a Hold of Your Credit Reports and Place a Fraud Alert

Contact one of the credit reporting companies and place a fraud alert. Once you place a fraud alert with one of the reporting companies, they will notify the other two about your alert. To do this, you will need proof of your identity. Although the bureau you notify is technically supposed to inform the others, it would be in your best interest to follow up and be sure.

After you’ve placed an initial fraud alert, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus.

Here’s the contact numbers for each of the 3 major credit bureaus:

  • Experian (TRW) 888-397-3742
  • TransUnion 800-680-7289
  • Equifax 800-525-6285

Submit a Report to the FTC

There is an online form that you can complete here. Once the form is completed, an identity theft report will be created for you. You will also be provided with a recovery plan. The report is significant because it is proof that your identity was stolen. Having the report also guarantees you certain rights.

Filing a Police Report for Identity Theft

Part of understanding how to report identity theft will entail dealing with creditors. The chances are that these creditors will require proof of criminal activity. Filing an identity theft police report will equip you with documentation which will give your case more credibility.

What’s Next?

After the crucial initial steps have been taken in reporting identity theft, you can move forward and start zeroing in on other areas and doing the necessary damage control.

Close any New Accounts Opened in Your Name

Once you’ve established the necessary contact points and ask for your compromised accounts to be closed, you should request a letter from the business/businesses you contact that will confirm that the fraudulent accounts do not belong to you. This letter should also state that you are not liable for the account(s) and confirm that it was removed from your credit report.

Remove any Fraudulent Charges from Your Accounts

Similar to notifying businesses about new accounts that were opened in your name, you should also notify them of fraudulent charges made. You will need to specify which charges were fraudulent and made in your name by someone else.

Correcting Your Credit Reports

Procedures for fixing fraudulent information on your credit reports have been established by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The act states that both the information provider and consumer reporting company are responsible for taking care of the fraudulent information on your report. You should contact both to protect the rights you are granted under this law.

Considering a Credit Freeze

Placing a credit freeze on your file is also something you may consider at this point. Having a freeze on your file means that potential creditors will be unable to access your report. Doing so lessens the odds of someone else opening accounts in your name. For the most part, putting a freeze on your credit file is free. If not, it should only cost about $10 or so.

Other Potential Courses of Action You May Take

There are a few other issues you may run into that haven’t been covered yet. You could have to deal with things like a compromised Social Security number or debt collectors trying to collect debts from you that you do not owe. In this section, we will discuss how to address those types of examples.

What to do if Your Social Security Number was Misused

There are numerous ways in which your Social Security number could potentially be acquired and used by someone else. A few examples include:

  • A stolen wallet, purse, or mail. Mail can include bank statements, account information, pre-approved credit cards and tax information
  • Personal information entered into unsecured websites
  • Someone going through your trash for your personal data
  • Impersonating someone via phone or e-mail who urgently needs your information such as employers or landlords

While Social Security cannot resolve identity theft problems, it is important that they are contacted if your number is being misused. In addition to filing an identity theft report, it is suggested that you contact the IRS in the event that a thief attempts to file a tax return in your name to receive your refund.

If you’ve taken all of the necessary steps and are still seeing that your Social Security number is being misused, it is possible you can be assigned a new number. If your card was stolen from you, you could apply for free here to get a replacement.

What if Debt Collectors Are Trying to Collect a Debt You Don’t Owe?

If you receive a collection letter, you can use this sample letter to send to the collector which may help. Notify the collector that your identity was compromised and that you are not responsible for the debt. You will need a copy of your identity theft report as well as other associated documents.

It is also important to contact any business that is reporting your debt to the credit bureaus and explain that the debt is not yours, that you are addressing it, and to stop reporting the debt. You can use this sample letter to request information about the debt and how it was accrued.

Replacing Government Issued ID’s

In the Social Security portion of this article, we showed you where you could go to apply for a replacement Social Security card. In addition to your Social Security card, you may need to replace your driver’s license if it was lost or stolen. That can be reported here.

Your passport may also need to be replaced. There are two forms you must fill out (DS-11, DS-64) and submit in person at an authorized Passport Application Acceptance Facility.

Clear Your Name

The protocol here will vary depending on what state (or even county) you’re in. The basic guidelines here include filing an impersonation report and confirming your identity. Have the police take your fingerprints and photographs and provide any forms of identification you have.

Once you’ve proven that you’re not liable for any potential charges, you should receive a clearance letter or certificate of release which should be carried at all times in case you are wrongfully arrested at any point in the future.

Handling Various Accounts After Identity Theft

When it comes to figuring out how to report identity theft, there are additional offices you may need to contact if your identity was stolen and used to pay for things such as utilities, phone service, student loans, etc.

Utilities

For any utilities that were acquired in your name without your information, contact the provider directly and make them aware of the situation. Ask them to close the account. If additional assistance is needed, you can contact your state Public Utility Commission and explain your predicament.

Phones

Request a data report from the Nation Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange. This report will show all telecommunication, pay TV, and utility accounts along with account history. Review this for any accounts you don’t recognize.

Government Benefits

If you are receiving Government Benefits and stopped receiving them due to identity theft, you can find local government agencies to contact here. Ask what steps need to be taken to get them reinstated. Keep a record of who was contacted and when.

Checking Accounts

If you believe checking accounts have been opened in your name, you can order a free copy of your ChexSystems report. This report includes compiled information about your checking accounts. You can obtain that report here.

Let’s Sum it all Up

If you wind up a victim of identity theft, you’ll need to be proactive. Knowing how to report identity theft correctly and how to obtain the proper documentation throughout the process will go a long way in clearing your name and ensuring that it does not occur again.

Is there anything in the process we missed? Anything you’ve experienced that you’d like to shed more light? Be sure to let us know in the comments section!

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