Identity theft has become one of the most common crimes in this day and age. Surprisingly, it often goes unnoticed for long periods. However, the minute someone suspects that they are a victim of identity theft or fraud, fast action is essential to prevent further damage to their finances, credit, and reputation. The singular most important step one can take first is to report the identity theft to the proper agencies or organizations. This can help cease the activity, which will allow victims to proceed with recovery efforts and move on with their life. This guide is designed to help victims determine who to report identity theft to along with tips for navigating the process.
Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The first step victims should take is contacting the FTC and file an official report, as this action helps guarantee specific rights for identity theft victims. There are two ways to begin this process: by phone or online. Complaints can be filed online at IdentityTheft.gov where there is a customized system in place to help victims develop a recovery plan. Online, the current status of the case can be viewed and copies can be made of the report immediately to provide to other affected parties and for the police report. The FTC can also be reached by phone at 1-877-438-4338. Filing a claim by phone may make processing and receiving a copy of the report take longer versus filing online.
Contact Companies and Creditors Involved
Most often, identity theft involves some type of fraud that involves an existing credit card or one opened without your authorization. In cases of existing accounts or cards, victims typically will have no financial liability concerning the unauthorized charges as long as they report issues immediately to the issuer of the card or line of credit. Creditors will typically remove the charges, and if not, there may be a need to start the credit bureau dispute process. New accounts that were opened can often be resolved by contacting the creditor’s customer service department to have them closed. A police report copy may be requested to confirm identity theft has reported.
Contact All Three Major Credit Bureaus
Those who have been targeted by identity thieves should contact all three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert and perhaps even freeze their credit reports. The bureau you contact is technically required to notify other bureaus of the situation, but consumers should double check with each one individually for a confirmation of the fraud alert’s placement. Here is how to contact these agencies.
- Experian Fraud Services – (888) 397-3742
- TransUnion Fraud Services – (800) 680-7289
- Equifax CreditReport Assistance – (888) 322-0008
Putting a freeze on credit reports is more powerful in defending against identity theft, and this prevents any parties from having access to viewing any credit history. Hence, it’s unlikely that any new accounts can be opened using the victim’s information. This freeze remains in place until the individual requests its removal. See contact details below to freeze credit reports.
- TransUnion Credit Freeze – (888) 909-8872
- Experian Credit Freeze – (888) 397-3742
- Equifax Credit Freeze – (800) 349-9960
Report to All Current Financial Institutions
Victims of identity theft are susceptible to financial fraud, where bank accounts can be cleaned out, completely taken over, loans can be applied for in addition to new accounts being opened. The sooner the financial institution is aware of the incident, the sooner they can put a hold on these accounts and begin looking into any fraudulent activity since the reported theft. They may also inquire about a police report copy.
Reporting Social Security Number Identity Theft
This type of fraud encompasses numerous possibilities for identity thieves. Once they have a victim’s social security number, they can do quite a bit of damage including:
- Opening fraudulent accounts in the victim’s name
- Selling the information on the dark web
- Hijacking benefits
- Medical identity theft
- File false tax refunds
Concerning tax-related identity fraud cases, criminals use the victim’s SSN to file a tax return and claim the refund for themselves. If this happens, the target is likely to receive a notice from the Internal Revenue Service denying accepting the return because their social security number has already been logged for the current tax year. Information to contact these agencies are below.
Call Local Police to Report Identity Theft
Calling the police and filing a formal complaint is vital to the majority of the process of halting identity theft activity and beginning the recovery process. Most affected businesses and creditors will request a copy of a police report confirming the incident’s details before beginning the steps to helping with recovery. Requesting that the police attach a copy of the FTC complaint can save time, and victims will need to make several copies depending on how extensive the damage is.
Reporting Criminal Identity Theft
If one suspects that their driver’s license information, social security number, address or other information has been falsely provided in connection with criminal activity, a police report should be filed An actual driver’s license doesn’t necessarily need to be shown to police if identity thieves provide basic information leading authorities to the victim rather than themselves. However, stolen licenses should be immediately reported to the affected party’s local police right away.
Reporting Postal Identity Theft
If mail goes missing regularly or important financial documents never arrive, it’s likely someone has been going through the box looking for snippets to use nefariously. Criminals often look for cash in holiday cards, checks, tax documents and information that will be useful in creating a new identity or by taking over the victim’s good credit or accounts. Any type of interference with mail send through the United States Post Office is a felony, and it is taken very serious by authorities and the post master. Victims can fill out a formal Identity Theft Complaint Form online to report mail fraud or postal related identity theft at https://www.uspis.gov/report/.
Reporting Medical Identity Theft
Once medical benefits have been tapped into fraudulently, the victim’s vital medical information has most likely been altered in addition to their benefits being utilized. One might not realize that anything is amiss until they make an appointment with their doctor or have an emergency situation and the providers have their medical information all wrong or deny coverage due to expended benefits. Suspected victims should take time to contact all medical providers they use, and correct any errors on their medical records caused by medical identity theft. Next, insurance companies, pharmacies and any mail order supply providers should be notified of the identity breach.
Take Preventive Action with Identity Protection Services
Individuals and businesses can save themselves the hassle of having to report identity theft by simply taking precautions to avoid being an easy target. Not sharing unnecessary information and using extra care online isn’t enough these days to offer people peace of mind in today’s increasingly digital world. However, protecting one’s identity to safeguard their finances and online reputation is simple with identity theft protection services.
Identity theft protection services will continually monitor customer’s credit, financial accounts and even the dark web looking for suspicious activity. They will immediately notify customers if sensitive information may have gotten into the wrong hands. These services will be able to lock and unlock credit instantly to prevent fraud. Furthermore, they will assist with the restoration of their client’s identity. If insurance protection is a part of the contract, these services will make arrangements to pay off fraudulent debts and any expenses associated with restoring the identity.