There are numerous ways to find out you’ve become the victim of identity theft. Your accounts might be drained. Your credit score might have plummeted. You might be receiving calls and letters from people looking to collect on debts that make no sense. However you found out, you’re going to have to report it to make things right again.
Although each situation is unique, there are a few agencies and organizations that need to know you’ve become the victim of identity theft in order to address it completely and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
The first thing you’ll need to do to report identity theft is contact the institution or organization where you first recognized the crime. If they have a fraud division, that’s who you’re going to want to talk to. Depending on the complexity and severity of the issue, they might be able to nip it in the bud for you; however, you’re still going to want to contact the government bodies that address this sort of thing.
The first place you’re going after contacting the initial organization where the fraud took place is the Federal Trade Commission. Their purpose is to stop unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices, and identity theft falls under their purview. They have a special portal dedicated to reporting identity theft, and it’s here you’ll be able to receive your FTC Identity Theft Report. You’ll need this for the next step, which is fixing your credit files.
FYI: If you’re not comfortable reporting your identity theft incident online, you can also contact them by calling 1-877-438-4338. An agent will be able to guide you through the recovery process.
How To Report Identity Theft
Contact All Three Major Credit Bureaus
Assuming you found out about your identity theft incident the way most people do — with unexpected collections notifications or overdrawn accounts you never opened, you’re going to need to get in touch with the credit reporting bureaus. Here’s the contact information for each:
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016-2000
Credit Information Services
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
Consumer Fraud Division
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
National Consumer Assistance
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
You’re going to need to work with them to remove fraudulent activity and debts from your report. This process can be painstaking, but their agents will work with you to get everything above board again. Note that you’ll need proof of your identity and copies of all documentation to support your case during this step.
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.
What To Do If I Lost My Social Security Card?
So you need to provide your new employer with a copy of your social security card and… where did you put that thing? It’s not in the safe, it’s not in your filing cabinet. It’s not in the junk drawer in the kitchen either…
Okay, don’t panic. There are steps to take if you discover you no longer have your social security card in your possession. If you suspect it was stolen, contact your local police department first and file a theft report. Then — regardless of whether it was stolen or misplaced — contact the three credit monitoring bureaus to request a freeze be placed on your files. Even if you really did just misplace the card, you can’t be too careful.
With your freeze in place, the first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you’ve claimed your Social Security Administration profile. Here you can request a replacement social security card, and also check for warning signs of identity theft including annual earnings associated with the account and benefits used.
Did You Know? It doesn’t cost anything to replace your card. The Social Security Administration provides up to 10 free replacement cards over the course of an individual’s lifetime.
Keep in mind, though, the Social Security Administration purposefully makes it pretty difficult to simply request a new card. If it was easy, social security fraud would be rampant. You’re going to have to jump through some pretty serious hoops to prove you are who you say you are.
You’re going to need one of the following:
- Your birth certificate
- A U.S. hospital record of birth
- A religious record indicating your date of birth
- A valid U.S. Passport
- A final adoption decree
Note that these either need to be originals or certified copies from the issuing body. A photocopy or even a notarized copy isn’t going to cut it. If you don’t have any of these items handy, don’t worry, there are other forms of acceptable identification — just speak with an administration agent and describe your situation.
With document(s) in hand, you’re going to need to fill out a Social Security Card application. You’re then going to take or mail those document(s) to the nearest Social Security Administration Office.
FYI: Just so you know what to expect, it’s going to take 10 to 14 business days to receive your new card once your application is processed, and that processing period depends on the local office’s current workload. What we’re saying is, don’t expect to leave with a new card same-day.
Once you’ve got your new card, keep it somewhere safe. There’s very little reason to ever carry the physical card around with you since it’s only needed in very specific circumstances. A keyed filing cabinet or safe is the best home for your new card.
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.