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What to do if someone takes your identity

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid LSC Funded

 

Photo of a perturbed woman holding her credit cardMany people deal with the results of identity theft.  Here are 4 steps you can take to recover from identity theft. By following these steps, you will end up with an Identity Theft Report. This report will be helpful in getting fraudulent information removed from your credit report, stopping companies from collecting on debts that resulted from identity theft and getting information from companies about accounts the identity thief opened or misused.

Step 1:  Contact the consumer reporting agencies

Consumer reporting agencies keep track of your credit score and what debt you have.  If your identity is stolen, you will need to contact the fraud departments of the consumer reporting agencies.  They need to know your identity was stolen.  You can also find out if there are fraudulent charges in your name that you did not make.  Here are the 3 agencies:
  • Equifax – 1-800-525-6285
    P.O. Box 740241
    Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
  • Experian – 1-888-397-3742
    P.O. Box 2104
    Allen, TX 75013-2104
  • Trans Union – 1-800-680-7289
    P.O. Box 2000
    Chester, PA 19022-2000
These agencies can help stop further problems. You can ask them for help in placing a “Fraud Alert” or “Credit Freeze” on your credit report. Here’s what these mean: 
 
Fraud Alert  
  • This requires other companies to take reasonable steps to verify that you are the consumer before allowing credit to be given in your name.  
  • You make a call to only one of the above agencies asking them to place an alert on your credit.
  • This usually lasts for 90 days and should not cost you any money.
Credit Freeze 
  • This means no one is granted credit in your name, including you.
  • You write a letter to all three agencies asking them to freeze your credit.
  • There is the possibility of fees, as this will last until you write to end it.

Step 2: Contact the companies that extended credit to you

You may find out about the fraud because there is a charge you didn’t agree to on your account. Call the fraud department of the companies where fraud was committed.  If you have an active account with the company and want to keep that, you should ask to freeze the account.  If you do not want an account with the company, you should ask them to close the account.

Step 3: File a complaint with the FTC

  • You will need to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  You can do this online at their website – www.ftc.gov/idtheft or call them at 1-877-438-4338.  
  • Making a complaint will create an “identity theft affidavit.”  Print it out. This is very important paperwork.  Keep it in a safe place until you complete Step 4.

Step 4: File a police report

After you have the identity theft affidavit, you should go to your local police station.  Ask them to file a police report about fraudulent charges in your name.  Be sure to get a copy of the police report for your records.
 
Identity Theft Report
  • Once you have followed Steps 1-4, you should have some paperwork.  The Identity Theft affidavit from the FTC and the police report together make an “Identity Theft Report.”  Some creditors will require proof that a crime was committed.  You can send this report to the creditors’ fraud departments.  The report proves to creditors that you are not responsible for certain credit taken out in your name.  You should also send them a written letter disputing the charges.
  • Mail a copy of the report to the consumer reporting agencies listed in Step 1.  Within 4 business days of accepting the report, the agencies should remove the identity theft-related information from your credit report.
Resources
 
The FTC website (www.ftc.gov/idtheft) has a lot of information to help those dealing with identity theft.
 
Last legal review June 2012
Last Review and Update: Jun 27, 2012
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