Identity Theft & Fraud Protection

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish an account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn’t make—or until you’re contacted by a debt collector. Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing, or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. They may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.

Children can also become the victims of identity theft.

Steps to recover from identity theft

Filing a police report, checking your credit reports, notifying creditors, and disputing any unauthorized transactions are some of the steps you must take immediately to restore your good name.

Place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports with the three major credit reporting companies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. Placing a fraud alert entitles you to free copies of your credit reports. Review these reports carefully, looking for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain.

Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently. Ask for verification that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged. Keep copies of documents and records of your conversations about the theft.

File a report with law enforcement officials to help you with creditors who may want proof of the crime. You should also report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigations.

The Federal Trade Commission's website has extensive guidance on restoring your good name following identity theft, including letter templates for communicating with creditors.

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