When someone uses your identifying information without your knowledge or permission, you have been a victim of identity theft. Knowing that someone has your personal information and not knowing what they are up to with it can be a frightening situation. You might be unsure if your information has been used, but the suspicion that identity theft has occurred requires a quick response. Get started on what is sometimes a long and complicated process to stop the use of your information and limit the damage. Reporting the identity theft to the credit bureaus provides you with some protections and also allows you monitor your credit record more closely.
Write out the details of the possible identity theft, including names, dates, new account information and other fraudulent activity. Your detailed record will help with completing the required reports and speaking with credit bureau representatives about the crime.
File an identity theft report with your local police department as soon as you learn of the crime. The credit bureaus require the police report. The report triggers legal rights and protections, such as extended fraud alerts on credit reports, removing damaging information from credit reports and preventing debt collections related to the crime.
Contact the three major credit bureaus to report the identity theft and provide the details of the crime. Call Equifax at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742 and TransUnion at 800-680-7289. You can also visit the credit bureaus’ websites, which have pages for reporting identity theft and requesting different levels of fraud alerts.
Request the credit bureaus assign an initial fraud alert to your credit reports. There is no charge for this alert. The alert stops the opening of new accounts and the unauthorized access to your existing accounts. The initial alert, which entitles you a credit report copy from each credit bureau, lasts for 90 days.
Submit copies of your police report to the credit bureaus if you require an extended fraud alert, which is a free service, on your credit reports because your are certain that someone has used your personal information fraudulently. The extended alert lasts for seven years and allows you two free credit report copies over the following year.
Ask that a statement is added to credit reports explaining the details of the identity theft.
- Request copies of your credit reports from the three credit bureaus and review the reports for suspicious activity. Take steps quickly to report and dispute questionable charges and accounts.
- File an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and submit the report to the credit bureaus and to creditors who need proof of the crime. Visit the FTC Identity Theft website to get the complaint form or call the agency at 1-877-438-4338.
- Report the identity theft to the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration, especially if your Social Security number has been stolen.
- Contact your creditors to report the identity theft, dispute unauthorized charges and ask about monitoring your accounts.
- Check with your state’s attorney general’s office for information about state laws and protections for identity theft.
Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.