What to do when your name has been stolen.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. If this happens to you, it can ruin your credit ratings for years.
This situation is a mess. Do not ignore it. The Federal Trade Commission devotes a whole section of its website to this problem. Below, I've outlined the basic steps you MUST take. If you want to know more about identity theft, you can go to the FTC's Identity Theft site, or you can call them to get a printed copy of their brochure "Take Charge: Fighting Back Against ID Theft." The number is 1-877-438-4338 (1-877-ID-THEFT)
The FTC's advice on how to handle identity theft:
1. Place A Fraud Alert. Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three consumer reporting companies to place a fraud alert on your credit report. The fraud alert tells creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too. Once you place the fraud alert in your file, you're entitled to order free copies of your credit reports, and, if you ask, only the last four digits of your Social Security number will appear on your credit reports.
2. Close Compromised Accounts. Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. They provide you with an ID Theft Affidavit in PDF format on their site to use when disputing new unauthorized accounts.
3. Visit the Local Police Station. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Get a copy of the report or at the very least, the number of the report, to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.
4. File A Complaint. Filing your complaint with the FTC helps you, and helps fight identity theft crimes in general. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Filing a complaint helps the FTC to learn more about victim's problems.
There are services you can pay for that could help you with preventing and clearing up identity theft and keeping protected from from future threats. There are also services that will monitor information related to your credit report for free, such as Lending Tree's Credit Score Utility.
What information does the FTC have?
Read the table of contents of the FTC brochure here, to decide if it contains the information you want, if so, you can go directly to the FTC's Identity Theft site where you can also report ID theft. If you are a victim of ID theft and want to create an individualized plan of recovery, the Federal Government has a dedicated online tool for you at it's ID Theft Recovery page.
"ID THEFT VICTIMS: IMMEDIATE STEPS
- Placing Fraud Alerts on Your Credit Report
- Closing Accounts
- Filing a Police Report
- Filing a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
- The Identity Theft Report
- Tips For Organizing Your Case
- Chart Your Course of Action
RESOLVING SPECIFIC PROBLEMS
- Bank Accounts and Fraudulent Withdrawals
- Bankruptcy Fraud
- Correcting Fraudulent Information in Credit Reports
- Credit Cards
- Criminal Violations
- Debt Collectors
- Driver's License
- Investment Fraud
- Mail Theft
- Passport Fraud
- Phone Fraud
- Social Security Number Misuse
- Student Loans
- Tax Fraud
- Getting Your Credit Report
- What To Do Today
- Maintaining Vigilance
- A Special Word About Social Security Numbers
- The Doors and Windows are Locked, But...
- It's the Law
- Instructions for Completing the ID Theft Affidavit
- The ID Theft Affidavit
- Annual Credit Report Request Form