Privacy, Security, and Fraud Protection — What to do When You Think Your Identity Has Been Stolen

What to do When You Think Your Identity Has Been Stolen

The earlier the fraud is detected the better. It often takes time before victims even realize that their identity has been stolen and used fraudulently. The first clue may be receiving credit cards that you didn’t apply for or calls from collection agencies looking for payments on accounts that you never opened.

It is important to watch your accounts carefully, review your credit report regularly and take immediate action if you notice anything incorrect or unfamiliar.

What to do if you suspect you’ve become a victim of identity theft

Protect your existing accounts

  • Contact all of your creditors and your bank(s) immediately to let them know you may be a victim of fraud.
    – Cancel current credit/debit cards (your card issuers will generally send you a replacement).
    – Request a new PIN number.
    – Request/add a password to your account.
  • Tell them to close any new accounts that you didn’t open.
  • Ask them to decline any new accounts that you didn’t request.
  • Ask them to close any existing account that you feel has been compromised and open a new one.
  • Stop payments on any missing checks.
    – Open a new account if necessary.
    – Remember to update or change any automatic bill payments.

Deal with accounts that may have been opened fraudulently

  • Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus and report the theft.
    – Carefully review your reports to make sure no additional accounts have been opened in your name.
    – Ask that a "fraud alert" be placed on your file and that no new credit be granted without your approval.
    – Equifax:
    – Experian:
    – Trans Union: 
  • Contact the fraud department of each company that you believe an account was opened fraudulently.
    – Close the accounts immediately.
    – Follow-up with letters sent by registered mail and include a copy of an ID Theft Affidavit (a form that can be used to report information to many companies—it simplifies the process of alerting companies where a new account was opened your name) and a copy of the police report. As the company to send you a letter of release to clear the account and acknowledge that it was opened fraudulently.
  • Contact creditors who made inquiries on your credit report when you didn’t request credit.
  • File a report with local police or the police where the identity theft took place. The police report number or a copy of the report can be helpful as you contact banks, credit card companies and others in case you need proof of the crime later.
  • Call the ID Theft Clearinghouse Toll-free at 1-877-438-4338 to report the theft. Counselors will take your complaint and advise you on how to deal with the credit-related problems that could result from ID theft. The Identity Theft Hotline and the ID Theft Web site give you a single place to report the theft to the federal government and receive helpful information.

Keep a record of everything

  • Start with what was lost. Keep a record of everything that was lost—the companies/banks involved; account numbers; checks and check numbers; driver's license; insurance card; bank statements, etc.
  • Track your conversations. Keep a record of the various steps you take to report the incident—including reports to banks, credit card issuers, government agencies, and the local police.
  • Log the details. Keep a record of dates, times, contact telephone numbers, and the name of the person you talk to. Record information, including case numbers and instructions you receive.

How can I make online shopping safer?

Your online security depends on how well you protect your information. Watch this video for tips on safer online shopping.

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Safeguard against identity theft!

Follow a few simple tips to protect your identity. This brochure offers methods for safer online shopping and recovery from identity theft.

ID Theft Prevention Brochure (361 KB PDF)

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