In some cases, such as a bad charge on your credit card, you may only need to contact the credit card company to cancel the account. In cases in which more than one account has been compromised or new accounts have been opened in your name, you may also need to work with the credit bureaus and law enforcement to sort out the problems.
It is important to act quickly so that you can limit the damage as much as possible. As soon as you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, you should:
Close any accounts that have been opened or used fraudulently. Contact the fraud departments of banking or credit card companies. Explain that you are or suspect you are a victim of fraud and ask the company about its 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 affidavit helps you organize the facts of your situation.
Know your rights. The Federal Trade Commission also offers a summary of your rights in the United States.
If you suspect that your PayPal account has been compromised, you should promptly alert us anytime day or night for help.
Contact your local law enforcement agency and file a report. With more serious thefts, it will be especially important to have this report to back up your story with your bank and credit companies. In some cases, you may be directed to file a report in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.
If you live in the United States, contact the fraud department at each of the three major credit reporting bureaus and tell them that you want to place a fraud alert on your account.
These bureaus maintain a comprehensive picture of financial accounts in your name. Their 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.
If you live outside the United States, contact your bank or credit company for information on which agency to work with.
Let companies and government agencies know about your situation. If you have closed any accounts, it is important to inform merchants that checks you have written recently may not go through. If you use any form of automatic bill payment or have set up repeat credit charges or debits to your financial accounts, you will also need to update your account profile information with the relevant companies or service providers.
Remember, too, that you have to promptly update your PayPal account profile.
Finally, if you report your experience to government agencies that track identity theft, you help them better understand this crime to make victim assistance and law enforcement more effective.
While everyone should be more aware these days, identity theft victims have to be even more careful for the next six months to a year. Check your PayPal account and bank and credit card balances often. Order a credit report every couple months.
PayPal members can also take advantage of a special offer for credit report monitoring.
For more information on what to do if documents that prove your identity (like a driver's license or passport) are being used to commit fraud, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission offers a booklet with advice.