Recovering From Identity Theft
Source: United States Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is a serious crime. Identity theft happens when someone uses information about you without your permission. They could use your:
- name and address
- credit card or bank account numbers
- Social Security number
- phone or utility account numbers
- medical insurance numbers
How will I know if my identity was stolen?
Here are ways you can tell that someone is using your information:
- You see withdrawals from your bank account that you cannot explain.
- You find credit card charges that you didn’t make.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says someone used your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job.
- You do not get your bills or other mail.
- You get bills for utilities or medical services you did not use.
- Debt collectors call you about debts that are not yours.
- You find strange accounts or charges on your credit report.
IdentityTheft.gov is a website that helps you recover from identity theft. You:
- answer questions about what happened to you
- put in your name, address, and other information
- get your Identity Theft Report
- get a recovery plan created just for you
You also can create an account. The account helps you through the recovery steps and tracks your progress.
What is an Identity Theft Report?
An Identity Theft Report helps you fix your bills and your credit report. Your Identity Theft Report tells your creditors that you should not have to pay for what the identity thief spent.
You get an Identity Theft Report when you report a problem to IdentityTheft.gov. This is your statement about what happened. It lists what accounts are not yours and what charges you did not make.
What is a credit report?
Your credit report is a summary of your credit history. It lists:
- your name, address, and Social Security number
- your credit cards
- your loans
- how much money you owe
- if you pay your bills on time or late
Who creates my credit report?
A credit bureau creates your credit report. The credit bureau gathers information about you and your credit history.
There are three main credit bureaus:
What is a fraud alert?
A fraud alert tells businesses that they must contact you before they give someone credit in your name. You put a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert makes it hard for someone else to open new accounts in your name.
There are a few kinds of fraud alerts. They are all free:
- Initial fraud alert – lasts for one year. Use this if you think someone stole your identity.
- Extended fraud alert – lasts for seven years. Use this if you know someone stole your identity.
- Active duty alert – lasts up to one year. Use this if you are in the military and deployed.
What should I do if someone steals my identity?
First, call the companies where you know fraud happened.
- Explain that someone stole your identity.
- Ask them to close or freeze your accounts.
- Then change your password or personal identification number (PIN).
- Then visit IdentityTheft.gov or call 1-877-438-4338.
- Answer questions about what happened to you.
- Get a recovery plan that’s just for you.
- You can create an account on the website.
- The account helps you with recovery steps.
- The account also helps you track your progress.
What happens when I get my recovery plan??
You will want to call one of the credit bureaus. Ask the credit bureau for an initial fraud alert. It is free and lasts for 90 days. The fraud alert makes it harder for thieves to open accounts in your name. That credit bureau has to tell the other two.
Then you can ask all three credit bureaus for a credit report. If someone stole your identity, your credit report is free. Look at your credit report for things you do not recognize.
Everybody’s identity theft is different. But your recovery plan from IdentityTheft.gov will:
- Tell you the steps to take next.
- Tell you where to call, and give you the phone numbers.
- Give you letters to send with your information filled in.
- Give you reminders and help you track your progress.