We’ve all heard the news reports: social media accounts hijacked, e-mail scams claiming to be from a trusted source, or telephone calls requesting personal information because of a supposed IRS tax lien. There's no doubt about it: The fraudsters and criminals are out to get your personal information.
What should you do if you think you’ve become a victim of identity theft? Recovering from identity theft is a process and there are a number of steps you'll need to take to protect yourself from further damage.
If you suspect that your personal information has been compromised and used to commit fraud or theft in your name, take the following four steps right away:
1. File a report with your local police department or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Get a copy of the police report, if possible, or at least the report number.
2. Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission. You can do this via the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT or online at IdentityTheft.gov.
3. Place a a fraud alert on your credit report. This notifies potential credit grantors to verify your identification before extending credit in your name.
4. Contact the creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Ask to speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each creditor about closing those accounts and disputing any fraudulent transactions. Keep a detailed log of all contacts with creditors, including dates and times contacted, names of individuals spoken to and notes relating to each contact.
Steps for Specific Types of Identity Theft
• If an identity thief has stolen your mail to obtain personal information, contact your local post office for the phone number of the nearest postal inspection service office, or visit the Postal Service website.
• If you have reason to believe that an identity thief has tampered with your bank accounts, checks or ATM/debit card, close the accounts immediately. If your checks have been stolen or misused, stop payment on any outstanding checks. Also contact the major check verification companies to request that they notify retailers using their databases not to accept these checks, or ask your bank to notify the appropriate check verification service:
National Check Fraud Service 1-843-571-2143
Equifax Check Systems 1-800-437-5120
• For identity theft involving your securities, investments or a brokerage account, immediately report it to your broker or account manager and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
• If an identity thief has established new phone service in your name or is making unauthorized calls using your phone number, calling card number and PIN, contact your service provider to cancel the account.
• If you believe someone is using your Social Security number to apply for a job or to work, report this to the Social Security Administration's Fraud Hotline at 800-269-0271. Call 800-772-1213 to request a copy of your Social Security earnings and benefits statement and verify the accuracy of the earnings reported on the statement.
• If you suspect that your name or Social Security number are being used by an identity thief to get a driver's license or a non-driver's ID card, contact your state Department of Motor Vehicles. If your state uses your Social Security number as your driver's license number, ask them to substitute another number.
• If you believe someone has filed for bankruptcy using your name, write to the U.S. Trustee in the Region where the bankruptcy was filed. A listing of the U.S. Trustee Program's Regions can be found here or look in the blue pages of your phone book under U.S. Government-Bankruptcy Administration. Your letter should describe the situation and provide proof of your identity. You may also want to file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney and/or the FBI in the city where the bankruptcy was filed.
• In rare instances, an identity thief may create a criminal record under your name. If this happens to you, you may need an attorney to help resolve the problem.