Reporting Identity Theft, Part I
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What should I do first if I think I'm the victim of criminal identity theft?
If you learn that you've been a victim of criminal identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some advice on reporting identity theft:
- File a police report first. Depending on your state of residence, you may need to report the crime where it occurred. Insist the report include all accounts and sources of fraud - and get a copy. You will need the report for the credit bureaus, credit card companies, and banks if you are reporting online fraud, a stolen wallet, or other type of identity theft.
- For mail fraud, you may also need to contact the U.S. Postal Inspector for a report.
- For cases involving theft of your driver's license number, also contact your state's Department of Motor Vehicles fraud investigator.
- Report brokerage account fraud to your brokerage company, the Securities Exchange Commission, and the National Association of Securities Dealers. Action will depend on your individual account agreement.
- The Social Security Administration only gets involved with identity theft if there is benefit theft or fraud.
- Always contact the FTC for identity theft reporting. Take advantage of the uniform affidavit provided by the FTC in case your creditors ask for one. The number for the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline is 877-438-4338.
- Notify one of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to place a fraud alert on your file at all three bureaus. With the fraud alert, the credit bureaus are required to call you before extending a line of credit for a period of 90 days.
- Upon receipt of an 'identity theft victim's rights' notice in the mail from the three credit bureaus, you should request your free credit report and a seven year extension on your fraud alert (you must have a police report to request the seven year extension).
- Initiate a security freeze. The credit bureaus are required by law to prevent any access to your credit report without first contacting you when you request a freeze. Victims are provided with a free security freeze in most states, and consumers may initiate one for a fee ($10 in many states).
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