If you find that you've been victimized by an identity thief, the process of dealing with it can seem overwhelming. Take heart: The median identity theft case, as reported by the FTC, results in fraudulent charges of just $500, and the victim usually doesn't have to pay for any of it. The median amount of time spent dealing with the situation was four hours. There have been a few cases where victims were left on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars and spent years trying to repair their credit, but they're exceptional.
Your first step should be to call one of the credit bureaus and put a fraud alert on your credit. The bureau is then required to call the other two primary bureaus. The fraud alert prevents anyone from opening a new credit account of any kind in your name. You'll also get a free copy of your credit report -- check it and stay in contact with the credit bureaus until they correct any fraudulent charges or accounts you find there.
Next, close your accounts. For many people, this is a huge inconvenience, but it is the only sure way to shut down a thief who is charging up debt in your name.
File a complaint with the FTC through their online complaint form at ftccomplaintassistant.gov. Then, file a complaint with your local police department. Keep records of everything that happens pertaining to your case. Keep a copy of every bill, phone record, statement and credit report in a safe place in case anyone needs to see it.
For more information about identity theft and related topics, steal over to the next page.
- Abagnale, Frank W. Stealing Your Life. Broadway Books, 2007.
- Federal Trade Commission. "Defend: Recover from Identity Theft." (April 2, 2009) http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/defend.html
- Federal Trade Commission. "About Identity Theft." (April 2, 2009) http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/about-identity-theft.html
- Hammond, Robert. Identity Theft. Career Press, 2003.
- Loberg, Kristin; Son, Steven; Thorpe, Megan; Walsh, James, editors. Identity Theft. Silver Lake Publishing, 2004.
- Stewart, Gail B. Identity Theft. Lucent Books, 2007.
- United States Department of Justice. "Identity Theft and Identity Fraud." (April 2, 2009) http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html