Reporting Identity Theft
Last updated 25th Nov 2022
Victims of fraud or identity theft need to report the theft to various authorities. By taking the proper corrective action, victims can reduce the risk of further theft, and start a process that will clean up the inaccurate information appearing on their credit report. Recent statistics indicate nearly ten million adults in the United States are victims of identity theft each year. In this article, we're going to discuss the measures individuals can take if they discover they're a victim. This includes reporting the theft to credit reporting agencies, law enforcement officers, as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
Filing Identity Theft Reports
In general, victims of identity theft should have three concerns:
- Preventing thieves from continuing to use their identity to commit fraud
- Starting the process of cleaning up / clearing up their credit reports
- Providing information to law enforcement authorities to help catch the thief
- Retain all paperwork in a readily accessible location, and make sure all documents are kept current and organized in a well thought-out manner.
- Maintain a logbook of the dates, times, and discussions occurring both in-person and over the phone with various stakeholders. This logbook should include the names, titles, and contact information for each of the persons reached.
- Send written letters to each of the persons contacted, confirming what was discussed, and the follow-up items coming out of that discussion. Keep copies of all letters, and mail them using the U.S.P.S. Return Receipt process.
Fraud AlertsVictims often discover both identity theft and account fraud at the same time. The following four steps will help mitigate any short-term negative effects:
- Filing a Fraud Alert with Credit Agencies
- Completing an Identity Theft Report
- Closing Tampered Accounts
- Notifying Law Enforcement Officials
Filing a Fraud AlertIdentity thieves can do a lot of damage to credit reports. To prevent, reduce, or eliminate the damage, victims should file a fraud alert with each credit bureau. The alert will require the victim to complete additional steps when applying for new credit, but it will also prevent thieves from opening new accounts. The three major credit-reporting agencies each have a toll-free telephone number that can be used to report the theft. That toll-free telephone number, as well as the agency's mailing address appears below: Equifax P.O. Box 740241Atlanta, GA 30348Toll-Free Number: 1-866 349-5191 ExperianP.O. Box 9532Allen, TX 75013Toll-Free Number: 1-888-EXPERIAN TransUnionFraud Victim Assistance DivisionP.O. Box 2000Chester, PA 19022-2000Toll-Free Number: 1-800-680-7289
Completing a ReportAn identity theft report is nothing more than a police report that includes enough information to prove to credit bureaus the filer was a victim. A standard police report will not contain sufficient details about the account, or accounts, which were stolen. Ideally, the FTC's Identity Theft Complaint Form would be appended to the standard police report. Local police officials are not required to use the FTC form, and may even refuse to complete one. If that occurs, they will capture enough details in their police report, which should have two parts:
- Part One: this report is filed with law enforcement agencies such as a local police department, the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. It contains the dates of the identity theft, the accounts associated with any fraudulent action, as well as any information known about the thief.
- Part Two: this report contains information the credit bureau may require beyond that contained in the FTC's form. This might include additional documentation that is reasonably intended to verify the identity theft. Credit agencies must identify the information they require for Part Two within 15 days of receiving Part One (the law enforcement document).
Closing Tampered AccountsIf a new or existing account has been tampered with, the victim will need to call that company and speak to an agent that deals with cases of fraud. As mentioned earlier, keep a written record of all conversations, including the dates, names of persons contacted, and the topics discussed. Victims may be asked to mail supporting documents. Never send original materials, provide agencies with a copy. If possible, send written correspondence using the Return Receipt process established by the U.S.P.S. Victims may also be required to complete a dispute form or an ID Theft Affidavit. Once the fraud dispute has been resolved, make sure the company has closed the account in question and verified, in writing, that it has discharged the fraudulent debt.
Notifying Law Enforcement OfficialsAs a final step in reporting identity theft, register reports with local, state, and federal law enforcement officials. If local law enforcement officials are reluctant to take a report, remind them of the importance of the document to credit bureaus. A credit bureau may require a police report before they will resolve a dispute. They'll also need a report before they'll agree to block future charges, remove a disputed debt, or add a fraud alert to a credit report. If a local police department refuses to file a report, then a county police department should be contacted. If not successful at the county level, then file a report with the state police department. Victims should also register a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, which can be done using the form mentioned earlier. Victims can also call the FTC's toll free telephone number 1-800-ID-THEFT. Alternatively, it's possible to write to the FTC at the address given below: Identity Theft Clearinghouse Federal Trade Commission 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20580
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