There are a million and one ways to steal someone’s identity and once a thief has your personal information, they can max out your credit cards, drain your bank account, and ruin your credit rating. Identity theft scams come in all shapes and sizes – friends or grandchildren “stranded” in a foreign country, the hotel front desk “verifying” your credit card in the middle of the night, “charity” solicitations from groups you’ve never supported in the past.
The FTC has put together a great, step-by-step guide on what to do if you think your identity has been stolen. Here’s where to start:
Flag Your Credit Reports. Call one of the nationwide credit reporting companies, and ask for a fraud alert on your credit report. The company you call must contact the other two so they can put fraud alerts on your files. An initial fraud alert is good for 90 days.
- Equifax 1‑800‑525‑6285
- Experian 1‑888‑397‑3742
- TransUnion 1‑800‑680‑7289
Order Your Credit Reports. Each company’s credit report about you is slightly different, so order a report from each company. When you order, you must answer some questions to prove your identity. Read your reports carefully to see if the information is correct. If you see mistakes or signs of fraud, contact the credit reporting company.
Create an Identity Theft Report. An Identity Theft Report can help you get fraudulent information removed from your credit report, stop a company from collecting debts caused by identity theft, and get information about accounts a thief opened in your name. To create an Identity Theft Report:
- file a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or 1-877-438-4338; TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Your completed complaint is called an FTC Affidavit.
- take your FTC Affidavit to your local police, or to the police where the theft occurred, and file a police report. Get a copy of the police report.
The two documents comprise an Identity Theft Report.
For more information on how to protect your identity, visit the FTC’s full report.