identity has been stolen. What now?
Consider your identity theft incident as your "case."
Your primary goals are to:
- close fraudulent
yourself of responsibility for any debts or other criminal activities
the thief has perpetrated in your name
that your credit report is correct, and
- find out
as much information about the suspect as you can so you can
share that information with the police and the FTC
a plan of action to accomplish these goals. Make a list of the
documents you'll need and a list of companies from which you'll
need to get those documents.
- When contacting
a company, don't assume that the person you talk to will give
you all the information you need. Determine in advance what
information or result you want and develop a list of questions
or a strategy to achieve your goal. For example, the company
you call first may say they weren't the ones that extended the
credit to the thief. But if you ask, they may be able to tell
you which company that did. Listen carefully and take notes.
Don't end the call until you're sure you understand everything
you've been told. If you don't feel you're getting the help
you need, ask to speak to a supervisor.
tips can help keep your case organized:
are the first steps I should take if I'm a victim of identity theft?
up in writing with all contacts you've made on the phone or
in person. Use certified mail, return receipt requested.
- Keep copies
of all correspondence or forms you send.
- Keep a
list of anyone you talk to, what you were told, and the date
of the conversation. Use Chart Your Course of Action.
- Keep originals
of supporting documentation, like police reports and letters
to and from creditors; share copies only.
- Set up
a filing system for easy access to your paperwork.
- Keep old
files even if you think your case is closed. Although most cases
once resolved, stay resolved, in some cases, problems can crop
up again. Should this happen, you'll be glad you kept your files.
Follow up all calls in writing. Send your letter by certified
mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the
company received and when. Keep copies for your files.
Call the toll-free fraud number of any one of the three major
credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit report.
This can help prevent an identity thief from opening additional
accounts in your name. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your
fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will automatically be
notified to place fraud alerts, and all three credit reports will
be sent to you free of charge. For more information about fraud
alerts, see What are fraud alerts and victim statements?
Once you receive
your reports, review them carefully to make sure no fraudulent
accounts have been opened in your name or unauthorized changes
made to your existing accounts. See What should I look for on
a credit report to indicate identity theft? and How I do correct
inaccurate information on my credit report? You should continue
to check your reports periodically, especially in the first year
of discovery, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
The automated “one-call” process only works for the
initial placement of your fraud alert. Orders for additional credit
reports or renewals of your fraud alerts must be made separately
at each of the three major credit bureaus.
Contact the creditors (for example, credit card companies,
phone companies and other utilities, and banks and other lenders)
to close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Ask to speak with someone in the security or fraud department
of each creditor. It's particularly important to notify credit
card companies in writing. See What do I do if someone has tampered
with my existing accounts? See What should I do about unauthorized
charges on my credit cards? See What do I do if someone has opened
new credit accounts in my name?
File a report with your local police. Get a copy of the
police report in case the creditors, credit bureaus or others
need proof of the crime. See How do I prove that I'm an identity
theft victim? or What should I do if the local police will not
take a report from me?
File a complaint with the FTC. The FTC maintains a database
of identity theft cases which are used by law enforcement agencies
for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps us learn more
about identity theft and the problems victims are having so that
we may better assist you. See Filing a Complaint with the FTC.
should I look for on a credit report to indicate identity theft?
Check your credit reports carefully to make sure the information
is accurate. Look for inquiries you didn't initiate, accounts
you didn't open and unexplained debts on your legitimate accounts.
Check that information like your SSN; address(es); name and any
variations, including initials, Jr., Sr., etc.; and employers
is correct. Inaccuracies in this information may also be due to
typographical errors. Nevertheless, whether the inaccuracies are
due to fraud or error, notify the credit bureau as soon as possible
by telephone and in writing. See How do I correct inaccurate information
on my credit report? or How to Dispute Credit Report Errors.
on credit reports from potential credit card issuers do not always
mean that some one has tried to get credit in your name. Banks
and credit card companies often inquire about a consumer's creditworthiness
to help them target their marketing efforts. These inquiries will
be identified in a designated section of the report.
can I get copies of my credit reports?
Contact each of the three major credit bureaus:
To order your report, call: 800-685-1111 or write:
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
fraud, call: 800-525-6285 and write:
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Hearing impaired call 1-800-255-0056 and ask the operator to call
the Auto Disclosure Line at 1-800-685-1111 to request a copy of
To order your report, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) or write:
P.O. Box 2002, Allen TX 75013
fraud, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) and write:
P.O. Box 9530, Allen TX 75013
To order your report, call: 800-888-4213 or write:
P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022
fraud, call: 800-680-7289 and write:
Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA
much does a credit report cost?
Each credit bureau may charge you up to $9.00 for a copy of your
report. However, you are entitled to one free report a year if
you can show that: your report is inaccurate because of fraud;
you're on welfare; or you're unemployed and plan to look for a
job within 60 days. There also is no charge if a company has taken
adverse action against you, such as denying your application for
credit, insurance or employment, and you request your report within
60 days of receiving the notice of the adverse action.
do I prove that I'm an identity theft victim?
Identity theft victims often find themselves having to prove that
they're victims, not deadbeats trying to get out of paying bad
debts. So how do you go about proving you didn't do something?
Getting the right documents and getting them to the right people
Police Report: The police report is an important document
for providing proof of the crime. Many creditors want a copy in
order to absolve you of the fraudulent debts. Send a copy to each
of the three major credit bureaus. They will block, or remove,
the information you're disputing from your credit reports. This
may take up to 30 days. The credit bureaus have the right to remove
the block, or reinstate the information, if they believe it was
wrongly placed. Because this initiative is voluntary, except in
a few states (see Laws), it's important to also follow the dispute
procedures outlined in How do I correct inaccurate information
on my credit reports? Contact the credit bureaus to find out more
about how this initiative works. If you're having trouble getting
a police report, see What should I do if the local police will
not take a report from me?
ID Theft Affidavit: The FTC, in conjunction with banks,
credit grantors and consumer advocates, developed the ID Theft
Affidavit to help you close unauthorized accounts and get rid
of debts wrongfully attributed to your name. If you don't have
a police report or any paperwork from creditors, send the completed
ID Theft Affidavit to the three major credit bureaus. They will
use it to start the dispute investigation process. You also can
send the ID Theft Affidavit to creditors. Not all companies accept
the ID Theft Affidavit. They may require you to use their forms
instead. Check first.
Documentation: Getting documentation from a creditor
may be difficult, but you should try. Creditors' policies on confidentiality
and record keeping vary and may prevent you from getting the paperwork
you need to prove you didn't make a transaction. On the upside,
most victims can get accounts closed and debts dismissed by completing
the creditor's fraud paperwork, or the ID Theft Affidavit, and
including a copy of a police report. Insist on a letter from the
creditor stating that they have closed the disputed accounts and
have discharged you of the fraudulent debts. This letter is your
best defense if errors reappear or your personal information gets
re-circulated. This letter also is the best document to give credit
bureaus and debt collectors if your police report and ID Theft
Affidavit aren't enough to resolve your problems with them.
are fraud alerts and victim statements?
Fraud alerts let creditors know that fraud has been associated
with your credit report. As a result, creditors may confirm that
they're dealing with you and not an imposter before granting credit
or other services.
tell creditors to contact you before granting credit or other
services. Victim statements may cause delays in getting credit
while the creditor tries to contact you. If you have a cell phone,
you may want to include that number in your statement.
Are fraud alerts and victim statements always effective?
Fraud alerts and victim statements seem to be generally effective.
However, because credit grantors do not have to consider them
when extending credit, you should continue to check your credit
reports periodically, especially in your first year of discovery,
to make sure no new fraudulent activity is taking place.
should I do if the local police will not take a report from me?
There are efforts at the federal, state and local level to ensure
that local law enforcement agencies understand identity theft,
its impact on victims, and the importance of taking a police report.
However, we still hear that some departments are not taking reports.
The following tips may help you to get a report if you're having
much documentation as you can to prove your case. Debt collection
letters, credit reports, your notarized ID Theft Affidavit, and
other evidence of fraudulent activity can help demonstrate the
seriousness of your case.
if local authorities tell you that they can't take a report. Stress
the importance of a police report; many creditors require one
to resolve your dispute. Remind them that credit bureaus will
automatically block the fraudulent accounts and bad debts from
appearing on your credit report, but only if you can give them
a copy of the police report.
If you're told that identity theft is not a crime under your state
law, ask to file a Miscellaneous Incident Report instead.
If you can't get the local police to take a report, try your county
police. If that doesn't work, try your state police.
What do I do if someone has tampered with my existing accounts?
fraud department of the company where your account has been tampered
Close the account and open a new one. Get a new personal identification
number (PIN) or password when you open the new account. Avoid
using easily available information like your mother's maiden name,
your birth date, the last four digits of your SSN or your phone
number, or a series of consecutive numbers.
Dispute in writing any charges run up by the identity thief on
those accounts. Insist on having debits reinstated. Ask the representative
to send you the company's fraud dispute forms. If the company
doesn't have special forms, you can use this sample letter. See
What should I do about unauthorized charges on my credit cards?
and How do I get back money that was stolen from my debit card
account or through other electronic fund transfers?
What should I do about unauthorized charges on my credit
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) establishes procedures for
resolving billing errors on your credit card accounts, including
fraudulent charges on your accounts and limits your liability
for unauthorized credit card charges to $50 per card.
To take advantage
of the law's consumer protections, you must:
Write to the
creditor at the address given for "billing inquiries,"
not the address for sending your payments. Include your name,
address, account number and a description of the billing error,
including the amount and date of the error.
letter so that it reaches the creditor within 60 days after the
first bill containing the error was mailed to you. If the address
on your account was changed by an identity thief and you never
received the bill, your dispute letter still must reach the creditor
within 60 days of when the creditor would have mailed the bill.
This is why it's so important to keep track of your billing statements
and immediately follow up when your bills don't arrive on time.
letter by certified mail, and request a return receipt. This will
be your proof of the date the creditor received the letter. Include
copies (NOT originals) of sales slips or other documents that
support your position. Keep a copy of your dispute letter.
must acknowledge your complaint in writing within 30 days after
receiving it, unless the problem has been resolved. The creditor
must resolve the dispute within two billing cycles (but not more
than 90 days) after receiving your letter.
For more information,
see Fair Credit Billing and Avoiding Credit and Charge Card Fraud.
do I do if someone is using my checks?
If your checks have been stolen or misused, close the account
and ask your bank to notify the check verification service with
which it does business. While no federal law limits your losses
if someone steals your checks and forges your signature, state
laws may protect you. Most states hold the bank responsible for
losses from a forged check. At the same time, most states require
you to take reasonable care of your account. For example, you
may be held responsible for the forgery if you fail to notify
the bank in a timely manner that a check was lost or stolen. Contact
your state banking or consumer protection agency for more information.
You can contact
major check verification companies directly for the following
that they notify retailers who use their databases not to accept
your checks, call:
1-800-710-9898 or 927-0188
(previously Equifax Check Systems):
To find out
if the identity thief has been passing bad checks in your name,
call: SCAN: 1-800-262-7771
do I get back money that was stolen from my debit card account
or through other electronic fund transfers?
The Electronic Fund Transfer Act provides consumer protections
for transactions involving an ATM or debit card or other electronic
way to debit or credit an account. It also limits your liability
for unauthorized electronic fund transfers.
to report lost or stolen ATM and debit cards immediately because
the amount you can be held responsible for depends on how quickly
you report the loss.
If you report
your ATM card lost or stolen within two business days of discovering
the loss or theft, your losses are limited to $50.
If you report your ATM card lost or stolen after two business
days, but within 60 days after a statement showing an unauthorized
electronic fund transfer, you can be liable for up to $500 of
what a thief withdraws.
If you wait more than 60 days, you could lose all the money that
was taken from your account after the end of the 60 days and before
you report your card missing.
The best way to protect yourself in the event of an error or fraudulent
transaction is to call the financial institution and follow up
in writing - by certified letter, return receipt requested - so
you can prove when the institution received your letter. Keep
a copy of the letter you send for your records.
notification about an error on your statement, the institution
generally has 10 business days to investigate. The financial institution
must tell you the results of its investigation within three business
days after completing it and must correct an error within one
business day after determining that the error has occurred. If
the institution needs more time, it may take up to 45 days to
complete the investigation - but only if the money in dispute
is returned to your account and you are notified promptly of the
credit. At the end of the investigation, if no error has been
found, the institution may take the money back if it sends you
a written explanation.
and MasterCard have voluntarily agreed to limit consumers' liability
for unauthorized use of their debit cards in most instances to
$50 per card, no matter how much time has elapsed since the discovery
of the loss or theft of the card.
For more information,
see Electronic Banking and Credit, ATM and Debit Cards:
What to do if They're Lost or Stolen
do I do if someone has opened new credit accounts in my name?
Contact the fraud department of each creditor. Close the accounts
and dispute any charges run up on those accounts. Do not pay the
charges. Most creditors will require you to fill out fraud forms.
To save yourself time, ask if the company accepts the ID Theft
Affidavit. If not, ask the representative to send you the company's
fraud dispute forms. Find out what, if any, other documentation,
such as a police report, the company will need. Try to get them
to give you as much documentation of the fraudulent transaction
or information about the identity thief as you can.
do I find contact information for a company that has opened fraudulent
If the company is listed in your credit report, the credit bureau
can provide the contact information. If it's a well-known company,
you may be able to obtain a listing from your telephone directory
book or the toll-free directory (1-800-555-1212). You also can
use a search engine on the Internet, or your local librarian may
be able to help you.
do I correct inaccurate information on my credit reports?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) establishes procedures for
correcting mistakes on your credit record and requires that your
record be made available only for certain legitimate business
FCRA, both the credit bureau and the organization that provided
the information to the credit bureau (the "information provider"),
such as a bank or credit card company, are responsible for correcting
inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To protect
your rights under the law, contact both the credit bureau and
the information provider.
the credit bureau and follow up in writing. Tell them what information
you believe is inaccurate. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents
that support your position. In addition to providing your complete
name and address, your letter should clearly identify each item
in your report that you dispute, give the facts and explain why
you dispute the information, and request deletion or correction.
You may want to enclose a copy of your report with circles around
the items in question. Your letter may look something like this
sample. Send your letter by certified mail, and request a return
receipt so you can document what the credit bureau received and
when. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
must investigate the items in question - within 30 or 45 days
(depending on whether you provide additional information) - unless
they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all
relevant data you provide about the dispute to the information
provider. After the information provider receives notice of a
dispute from the credit bureau, it must investigate, review all
relevant information provided by the credit bureau and report
the results to the credit bureau. If the information provider
finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify
any nationwide credit bureau that it reports to so that the credit
bureaus can correct this information in your file. Note that:
that cannot be verified must be deleted from your file.
If your report contains erroneous information, the credit bureau
must correct it.
If an item is incomplete, the credit bureau must complete it.
For example, if your file shows that you have been late making
payments, but fails to show that you are no longer delinquent,
the credit bureau must show that you're current.
If your file shows an account that belongs to someone else, the
credit bureau must delete it.
When the investigation is complete, the credit bureau must give
you the written results and a free copy of your report if the
dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or removed,
the credit bureau cannot put the disputed information back in
your file unless the information provider verifies its accuracy
and completeness, and the credit bureau gives you a written notice
that includes the name, address and phone number of the information
If you request,
the credit bureau must send notices of corrections to anyone who
received your report in the past six months. Job applicants can
have a corrected copy of their report sent to anyone who received
a copy during the past two years for employment purposes. If an
investigation does not resolve your dispute, ask the credit bureau
to include your statement of the dispute in your file and in future
addition to writing to the credit bureau, tell the creditor or
other information provider in writing that you dispute an item.
Again, include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support
your position. Many information providers specify an address for
disputes. If the information provider then reports the item to
any credit bureau, it must include a notice of your dispute. In
addition, if you are correct - that is, if the disputed information
is not accurate - the information provider may not use it again.
For more information,
consult How to Dispute Credit Report Errors and Fair Credit Reporting.
If you provide
a copy of your police report, the credit bureaus will automatically
block the inaccurate information from appearing on your credit
reports sent to companies that request your report. This may take
up to 30 days. The credit bureaus have the right to remove the
block, if they believe it was wrongly placed. Except in a few
states which have made it a law, blocking the inaccurate information
based on a police report is a voluntary initiative by the credit
bureaus. It is not part of the FCRA, therefore it's still important
to follow all the steps previously mentioned in order to obtain
the full benefits due you under the law. Contact the credit bureaus
to find out more about how this initiative works. If you're having
trouble getting a police report, see What should I do if the local
police will not take a report from me?
do I stop debt collectors from contacting me?
The Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from using unfair
or deceptive practices to collect overdue bills that a creditor
has forwarded for collection.
You can stop
a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the
collection agency telling them to stop. Once the debt collector
receives your letter, the company may not contact you again -
with two exceptions: they can tell you there will be no further
contact and they can tell you that the debt collector or the creditor
intends to take some specific action.
also may not contact you if, within 30 days after you receive
the written notice, you send the collection agency a letter stating
you do not owe the money. In this case, a collector can renew
collection activities if you are sent proof of the debt. So, along
with your letter stating you don't owe the money, include copies
of documents that support your position. Including a copy (NOT
an original) of the police report you filed may be particularly
If you don't
have documentation to support your position, be as specific as
possible about why the debt collector is mistaken. The debt collector
is responsible for sending you proof that you're wrong. For example,
if the debt in dispute originates from a credit card you never
applied for, ask for the actual application containing the applicant's
signature. You can then prove that it's not your signature on
the application. However, in many cases, the debt collector will
not send you any proof, but will instead return the debt to the
while you can stop the debt collectors from contacting you, that
won't necessarily get rid of the debt itself. It's important to
contact the creditors individually to dispute the debt otherwise
the creditor may send it to a different debt collector, report
it on your credit report, or institute a lawsuit.
For more information,
consult Fair Debt Collection.
do I do if someone has filed for bankruptcy in my name?
If you believe someone has filed for bankruptcy in your name,
write to the U.S. Trustee (UST) in the region where the bankruptcy
was filed. A list of the U.S. Trustee Programs's Regional Offices
is available on the UST Web site, or check the Blue Pages of your
phone book under U.S. Government Bankruptcy Administration.
should describe the situation and provide proof of your identity.
The U.S. Trustee, if appropriate, will make a criminal referral
to law enforcement authorities if you provide appropriate documentation
to substantiate your claim. You also may want to file a complaint
with the U.S. Attorney and/or the FBI in the city where the bankruptcy
was filed. The U.S. Trustee does not provide legal representation,
legal advice or referrals to lawyers. That means you may need
to hire an attorney to help convince the bankruptcy court that
the filing is fraudulent. The U.S. Trustee does not provide consumers
with copies of court documents. Those documents are available
from the bankruptcy clerk's office for a fee.
do I do about criminal records made in my name?
Although procedures to correct your record within criminal justice
databases vary from state to state, and even from county to county,
the following information can be used as a general guide.
violations are wrongfully attributed to your name, contact the
arresting or citing law enforcement agency - that is, the police
or sheriff's department that originally arrested the person using
your identity, or the court agency that issued the warrant for
the arrest. File an impersonation report to confirm your identity.
The police department may take a full set of your fingerprints
and your photograph, and copies any photo identification documents
like your driver's license, passport or visa. They should compare
the prints and photographs with those of the imposter to establish
your innocence. If the arrest warrant is from a state or county
other than where you live, ask your local police department to
send the impersonation report to the police department in the
jurisdiction where the arrest warrant, traffic citation or criminal
The law enforcement
agency should then recall any warrants and issue a "clearance
letter" or certificate of release (if you were arrested/booked).
You'll need to keep this document with you at all times in case
you're wrongly arrested. Also, ask the law enforcement agency
to file, with the district attorney's (D.A.) office and/or court
where the crime took place, the record of the follow-up investigation
establishing your innocence. This will result in an amended complaint
being issued. Once your name is recorded in a criminal database,
it's unlikely that it will be completely removed from the official
record. Ask that the "key name," or "primary name,"
be changed from your name to the imposter's name (or to "John
Doe" if the imposter's true identity is not known), with
your name noted only as an alias.
want to clear your name in the court records. You'll need to determine
which state law(s) will help you do this and how. If your state
has no formal procedure for clearing your record, contact the
D.A.'s office in the county where the case was originally prosecuted.
Ask the D.A.'s office for the appropriate court records needed
to clear your name.
your state DMV to find out if your driver's license is being used
by the identity thief. Ask that your files be flagged for possible
You may need
to hire a criminal defense attorney to help you clear your name.
Contact Legal Services in your state or your local bar association
for help in finding an attorney.
do I do if the identity thief has gotten a driver's license in
If you think your name or SSN is being used by an identity thief
to get a driver's license or a non-driver's ID card, contact your
DMV. If your state uses your SSN as your driver's license number,
ask to substitute another number.
do I do about investment transactions made in my name?
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) Office of
Investor Education and Assistance serves investors who complain
to the SEC about investment fraud or the mishandling of their
investments by securities professionals. If you believe that an
identity thief has tampered with your securities investments or
a brokerage account, immediately report it to your broker or account
manager and to the SEC. You can file a complaint with the SEC
using the online Complaint Center at: www.sec.gov/complaint.shtml.
Be sure to
include as much detail as possible. If you don't have access to
the Internet, you can write to the SEC at: SEC Office of Investor
Education and Assistance, 450 Fifth Street, NW, Washington DC,
20549-0213. For general questions, call 202-942-7040.) For general
do I do about stolen mail or fraudulent changes of address?
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is the law enforcement
arm of the U.S. Postal Service and is responsible for investigating
cases of identity theft. USPIS has primary jurisdiction in all
matters infringing on the integrity of the U.S. mail. If an identity
thief has stolen your mail to get new credit cards, bank or credit
card statements, pre-screened credit offers or tax information,
has falsified change-of-address forms, or obtained your personal
information through a fraud conducted by mail, report it to your
local postal inspector. You can locate the USPIS district office
nearest you by calling your local post office or checking the
list at www.usps.gov/websites/depart/inspect.
do I do if my passport is lost or stolen?
If you've lost your passport or believe it was stolen, or is being
used fraudulently, contact the United
States Department of State (USDS) or call a local USDS field
office. Local field offices are listed in the Blue Pages of your
do I do if the thief has obtained phone service in my name?
If an identity thief has established phone service in your name,
is making unauthorized calls that seem to come from - and are
billed to - your cellular phone, or is using your calling card
and PIN, contact your service provider immediately to cancel the
account and/or calling card. Open new accounts and choose new
PINs. If you're having trouble getting fraudulent phone charges
removed from your account or getting an unauthorized account closed,
contact the appropriate agency from the list below.
service, contact your state Public Utility Commission, listed
in the Blue Pages of your telephone directory.
phones and long distance, contact the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC regulates interstate
and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite
and cable. You can contact the FCC's Consumer Information Bureau
to find out about information, forms, applications and current
issues before the FCC. Call: 1-888-CALL-FCC; TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC;
or write: Federal Communications Commission, Consumer Information
Bureau, 445 12th Street, SW, Room 5A863, Washington, DC 20554.
You can file complaints via the online complaint form at www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html,
or e-mail questions to email@example.com.
do I do if the thief has used my identity to take out a student
Contact the school or program that opened the student loan to
close the loan. At the same time, report the fraudulent loan to
the U.S. Department of Education.
Inspector General's Hotline at 1-800-MIS-USED
Office of Inspector General
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-1510
do I do if the thief is using my identity to file tax returns?
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) (www.treas.gov/irs/ci) is responsible
for administering and enforcing tax laws. If you believe someone
has assumed your identity to file federal Income Tax Returns,
or to commit other tax fraud, call toll-free: 1-800-829-0433.
Victims of identity theft who are having trouble filing their
returns should call the IRS Taxpayer Advocates Office, toll-free:
should I contact the Social Security Administration?
The Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General
investigates cases that involve the use of your SSN to fraudulently
obtain Social Security benefits. They also investigate cases that
involve the use of counterfeit SSN cards, the manufacturing or
selling of counterfeit SSN cards, the selling of legitimate SSN
cards or information, or the misuse of SSNs linked to terrorist
groups or activities. Report any of these allegations to the SSA
Fraud Hotline. Call: 1-800- 269-0271; fax: 410-597-0118; write:
SSA Fraud Hotline, P.O. Box 17768, Baltimore, MD 21235; or e-mail:
You also can
call SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to verify the accuracy of the earnings
reported on your SSN, and to request a copy of your Social Security
Statement or to get a replacement SSN card if yours is lost or
stolen. Follow up in writing.
I apply for a new Social Security number?
Under certain circumstances, the Social Security Administration
may issue you a new SSN - at your request - if, after trying to
resolve the problems brought on by identity theft, you continue
to experience problems. Consider this option carefully. A new
SSN may not resolve your identity theft problems, and may actually
create new problems. For example, a new SSN does not necessarily
ensure a new credit record because credit bureaus may combine
the credit records from your old SSN with those from your new
SSN. Even when the old credit information is not associated with
your new SSN, the absence of any credit history under your new
SSN may make it more difficult for you to get credit. And finally,
there's no guarantee that a new SSN wouldn't also be misused by
an identity thief.
I use a credit monitoring service?
A variety of commercial services are available, for a fee, that
will monitor your credit reports for activity and alert you to
changes; prices and services vary widely. Many of the services
only monitor one of the three major credit bureaus. As with any
product or service, make sure you understand what you're getting
before you buy. Also, check out any company you're not familiar
with before doing business with them. Contact your local consumer
protection agency or the Better Business Bureau to find out if
they have any complaints on file.
I buy identity theft insurance?
Some companies offer insurance or similar products that claim
to give you protection against the costs associated with resolving
an identity theft case. As with any product or service, make sure
you understand what you're getting before you buy. Be aware that
most creditors will only deal with you to resolve problems, so
the insurance company in most cases will not be able to reduce
that burden. Contact your local consumer protection agency or
the Better Business Bureau to find out if they have any complaints
a credit repair company clear up my record for me?
Claims by companies that they can clear up your credit record
are often misleading or false. Identity theft victims, in particular,
need to clear up debts with the original creditor. Most companies
won't deal with a third party.
should I do if I've done everything you've advised, and I am still
There are cases where victims do everything right and still spend
years dealing with problems related to identity theft. The good
news is that most victims can get their cases resolved by being
vigilant, assertive and organized. Don't procrastinate on contacting
companies to address the problems. Don't be afraid to go up the
chain of command or make complaints, if necessary.