Identifying and Recovering From Identity Theft

If you discover that you’ve fallen victim to identity theft, you must move swiftly and diligently. Additionally, you should obtain copies of items such as police reports, fraud department email correspondence, fraudulent billing documents, related files, and recovery plans. Make a list of every person you’ve spoken to regarding the identity theft and how you contacted them (e.g., phone numbers, emails, etc.). Documentation is your best friend.

How to Report Identity Theft

  1. Contact the company or companies from which the fraud transpired. Articulate to the fraud department that your identity was stolen.
  2. Ensure that you close or freeze the fraudulent accounts.
  3. Immediately change your logins, passwords, and PINs for all your accounts.
  4. Instate a fraud alert. To do so, you must contact one of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax)—which one you contact is up to you. Upon placing a fraud alert, the credit bureau you contacted is required to alert the other two bureaus. Each credit bureau will send you a letter asserting that you elected for a fraud alert.
  5. Report the incident of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC will provide you with a comprehensive case file and recovery plan. Save and print the report, as well as the recovery plan. We recommend creating an account through the website, which allows you to monitor the report and revisit your personalized recovery plan.
  6. If you want to double down on your efforts, file a report with the local police department. Inform them that your identity has been stolen and that you’d like to issue a report. When you do file the police report, make sure you bring along a copy of the FTC report, a government-issued photo ID, proof of residency (mortgage statement, lease agreement, etc.), and any proof of the theft you might have. Obtain a copy of the police report for your personal records.

Next Steps

  1. Contact the companies’ fraud departments where the theft occurred. Inform them that your identity was stolen and close the accounts. If you have incurred false charges, now is the time to have them removed from your accounts. Request that they send a letter confirming the circumstances of the cancellation. Hold onto it for your personal records.
  2. Compose a letter to all three credit bureaus requesting that your credit report be corrected and amended to reflect the accurate credit score.
  3. Look into implementing a credit freeze or extended fraud alert.
    • An extended fraud alert is free and allows creditors to acquire your credit report only if they can provide identity approval and verification. The alert provides you with two free credit reports in twelve months and lasts seven years. It applies to all three credit agencies and removes you from any prescreened credit offer lists for the next five years (however, you may ask the credit agencies to put you back on the list).
    • A credit freeze prevents most access to your credit report. It also costs money to implement and remove—fees depend on the state you live in. With a credit freeze, you can still acquire an annual credit report, apply for new housing, purchase a car, and get a new job. Though, in order for a lender or business to review your credit report, you must request a lift on the credit freeze—be it temporarily or permanently.
  4. Continue to follow your personalized recovery plan.
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