Identity Theft Guide Part 4
Some issues – like a bad charge on your credit card – are isolated. And you may only need to contact one company, like your credit card issuer, to resolve them.
Other situations – like when multiple accounts have been compromised or new accounts have been opened in your name – are more complicated. In these cases, you may also need to work with credit bureaus and law enforcement to sort out the problems.
It’s important to act quickly so you can limit the damage as much as possible. As soon as you suspect you may be a victim of identity theft, take action:
Contact your financial institutions.
- Don’t wait. Immediately advise the financial institutions where you hold accounts about your situation.
- For PayPal Accounts. If you suspect your PayPal account has been compromised, we’re here to help anytime, day or night. Go to Contact Us.
- For banks and credit card companies. Contact the fraud departments, explain that you suspect you’re a victim of fraud, and ask the company about their procedure for handling identity theft cases.
- Fill out an affidavit. Before contacting financial institutions, you may find it helpful to fill out an identity theft affidavit prepared by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. This document can help you organize the details of your situation.
- Know your rights. The Federal Trade Commission also offers a summary of your rights in the United States. Find out more with Remedying the Effects of Identity Theft.
Report it to law enforcement.
- For all identity thefts. Contact your local law enforcement agency and file a report.
- For more serious thefts. It is especially important to have a crime-report to back up your story with your bank and credit card companies. In some cases, you may be directed to file a report in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.
Place a “Fraud Alert” with the three major credit reporting bureaus.
U.S. account holders. If you live in the United States, contact the fraud department at each of the three major credit reporting bureaus and tell them you want to place a fraud alert on your account.
These bureaus maintain a comprehensive picture of financial accounts in your name. The reports are typically checked by banks and credit companies to determine if you should be granted credit or a loan.
Placing a fraud alert on your account will let banks and credit card companies know that you suspect identity theft and require them to contact you before they open any new accounts in your name. By placing a fraud alert on your account, you significantly minimize the chances that a thief might open an account in your name.
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
- Non-U.S. account holders. If your account is outside the United States, contact your bank or credit company to find the appropriate agency to work with.
- Striking twice. While everyone should be alert, identity theft victims have to be even more careful for six months to a year following an identity theft incident.
- Extra caution. Following an identity theft, it's vital that you check your account activity and balances often. As well as order a credit report periodically.
- Get free security help. PayPal users can also get Free Equifax Credit Alerts which alert you to possible identity theft.
Additional resources for everyone.
To learn more Online Safety Essentials, go to:
- Tips for Everyone. See how you can stay safe when you're online.
- Security Tools. Security measures to ensure your protection.
- Useful Links. Partnerships with outside agencies dedicated to your security.