How to Respond To Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when somebody obtains your personal information and uses it to commit fraud, such as by obtaining credit in your name, using your credit cards or accessing your bank account. When it comes to identity theft, your best option is to exercise care up front to minimize the risk of its occurrence.

After identity theft has occurred, it can be very time-consuming, difficult, and even expensive to repair the damage.

If you believe your identity has been stolen:

File Reports

Report the identity theft to the appropriate authorities:

File a Police Report. Send copies of the report to any creditors or other entities which may require proof of the crime.

File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

File A Complaint With The USPS: If the identity theft involves the U.S. mails, report the incident to the United States Postal Service.

If the IRS informs you that your Security Number has been compromised or if your e-filed tax return was rejected as a duplicate, file Form 14039 with the IRS.

Contact the Major Credit Bureaus

Contact at least one of the three major credit bureaus to have a fraud alert placed on your credit file. Once your fraud alert has been confirmed, it will automatically be shared with the other two major bureaus, and all three agencies will send you free copies of your credit report. The alert will require creditors to contact you before they open any new credit accounts or modify your existing accounts. The credit reports you receive should reflect if somebody has opened accounts in your name or if an unauthorized address is associated with any credit activity.

After a fraud alert is filed you will have to confirm new credit activity from your registered phone number. Follow up with the credit bureaus after a few months, again obtaining your credit reports, to ensure that proper corrective actions have been taken, and that any "victim's statement" you requested that they include in your credit report is properly included.

Contact Check Verification Companies

If you know that bank accounts have been opened in your name, or if somebody may be using stolen checks from your account, contact the major check verification companies and inform them of the identity theft so that they will not honor fake or stolen checks made out in your name. You should also notify your bank of any stolen checks, and should promptly report any incident of forgery.

  • CheckRite: (800) 766-2748
  • ChexSystems:- (800) 428-9623
  • CrossCheck: (800) 552-1900
  • Equifax: (800) 437-5120
  • National Processing Co. (NPC): (800) 526-5380
  • SCAN: (800) 262-7771
  • TeleCheck: (800) 710-9898

Secure Your Financial Accounts

Notify Banks and Creditors: Contact your banks and creditors, by phone and in writing, and report the incident. Request that they flag your accounts and notify you of any unusual account activity.

Close Unauthorized Accounts: Close all accounts which you know the credit thief has opened using your name or personal information. (The FTC provides an ID Theft Affidavit for use when disputing new unauthorized accounts.)

Close Or Secure Compromised Accounts: Close all accounts or change account numbers for any accounts the identity thief has accessed or may be able to access. Change the PIN codes and passwords for any accounts that may have been compromised.

Report Your Stolen Identification

If your driver's license, passport, or other legal identification document is stolen, make sure you mention that in the police report and when you apply for a replacement. Otherwise, if somebody uses your identification when dealing with the police or other law enforcement agency, you might find yourself arrested on a bench warrant for somebody else's unpaid traffic fines or criminal conduct.

Keep Good Records

Keep records of all contacts you make, and copies of any letters you send or receive, in relation to the identity theft. If you later have a problem with somebody you informed of the incident, good records will often help you resolve the problem.

Copyright © 2004 Aaron Larson, All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article, except as otherwise authorized in writing by the author of the article you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.

This article was last reviewed or amended on May 7, 2018.