If you believe that you are a victim of identity theft or fear that you may become one take these steps immediately!
- Take notes: As you make phone calls or send letters, keep notes of your conversations and correspondence with authorities and financial institutions, including dates, names, and phone numbers. Also, track all time spent and expenses you incur; you can deduct theft-related expenses on your income tax return, assuming you itemize deductions, and you may be able to seek compensation if you are ever able to sue the thief.
- Contact the credit bureaus: Call or visit the websites of the three major credit bureaus and ask that they issue a fraud alert and attach a statement to your credit report: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Also, get copies of your credit report from each of the credit bureaus. Look for all possible signs of trouble: accounts you didn’t open, inquiries you didn’t initiate, and defaults and delinquencies you didn’t cause. Also, check your identifying information carefully.
- Review your credit reports: After you receive your credit reports from the three credit bureaus, review them thoroughly. Immediately report any suspicious information or activity to the credit bureau that issued the credit report.
- Call the police: File a report of the crime with your local police department. Provide as much evidence as you can, and ask the officer to list all fraudulently accessed accounts that you know about on the police report. Be sure to get copies of the police report, because creditors will probably ask to see them. Remember to log the phone numbers and names of all the law enforcement agents that you speak to; creditors may want this information.
- Fill out an Identity Theft Victim’s Complaint and Affidavit: The form is available from the Federal Trade Commission. Creditors may accept this affidavit when you claim that you are not responsible for a new account or for transactions on an existing account. The information that you provide will enable the creditor to investigate your claim. This affidavit will be useful if you request copies of the thief’s application and transaction records.
- Close any accounts that have been accessed fraudulently, or that you’re worried might be: Contact all creditors, including banks, credit card companies, and other service providers, with whom there has been fraudulent activity. Request that creditors report closed accounts as “account closed at consumer’s request,” because a mark of “card lost or stolen” can reflect poorly on your credit report. Request copies of the identity thief’s application and transaction records from businesses that provided credit, goods, or services to the thief. Copies also must be provided to law enforcement agencies that you specify. In general, you must provide satisfactory proof of your identity, a police report, and a completed FTC identity theft affidavit.
- Stop payment on checks: If a thief stole checks or opened bank accounts in your name, contact one of the major check verification companies to report the fraudulent activity and to stop payment on stolen checks.
- Deal with debt collectors: While you are handling your identity theft case, debt collectors may ask you to pay outstanding bills from fraudulently activated credit accounts. Inform the debt collector by phone and in writing that you are a victim of identity theft and that you are not responsible for the unpaid bill. In your letter, be sure to include copies of documents, such as a police report, that demonstrate that you are the victim of identity theft. Ordinarily, you will have a complete defense to a debt incurred by the identity thief and should not pay it. Generally, the information you provide the collector and creditor will cause the collector to stop collection efforts. If not, it may be helpful to consult an attorney. Consult an attorney immediately if you receive notice of legal action based on debts incurred by the identity thief.
- Contact the local postal inspector: If you believe that someone has changed your address through the post office or has committed mail fraud, contact your local post office. If you discover that mail in your name is being sent to an address other than your own, ask the local postmaster to forward all mail in your name to your own address.
- Contact the Social Security Administration (SSA): If you believe that your Social Security number has been used to fraudulently obtain welfare or Social Security benefits, visit the SSA Office of the Inspector General online or call the SSA Fraud Hotline.
- Contact the U.S. State Department: If your passport was stolen or if you believe someone may be fraudulently ordering a passport in your name, contact the U.S. State Department.
- Contact your state’s department of motor vehicles: Contact this department if your driver’s license was stolen or if you think someone is using your driver’s license number to facilitate fraud. Most states will put a fraud alert on your license if you ask for one. You should also request a new license number and fill out the department’s complaint form.
Contact GCW Lawyers
If you need additional help in your identity theft case, contact our passionate attorneys at GCW Lawyers for more information.