How do you go about reporting identity theft? Have you noticed credit charges or invoices that you don’t recognize? Or maybe you’ve been rejected for credit even though you have a solid credit history?
These along with rejection notices from the IRS due to a duplicate tax return and medical bills that don’t add up are some of the common warning signs of an identity theft.
Identity theft is a type of crime where a fraudster uses someone else’s personal identifiable information (PII) in a fraudulent or deceptive way, usually for financial gain. Identity thefts are becoming more and more common in the US, especially during the past few years. In fact, new identity theft happens every two seconds.
In the unfortunate event of becoming a victim of an identity theft, it’s important to take action immediately to prevent any further damage. Start by reporting the identity theft to The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and to the police. Then, depending on the type of the identity theft you’ve become a victim to, contact other organizations or institutions.
Here we have compiled useful information on who to contact for identity theft and when.
FTC Identity Theft Report
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a government agency whose principal mission is the enforcement of civil U.S. antitrust law and the promotion of consumer protection. Everyone who has been a victim of identity theft should file a report to the FTC.
You can file an FTC identity theft report either online at IdentityTheft.gov or by calling 1-877-438-4338.
We recommend filling out the online form because that way, you’ll receive a copy of the identity theft report. This report documenting the identity theft helps you show that your identity has been stolen in case you need to report to the police as well or your bank or other institution requires proof. This is how you file a FTC identity theft report online:
First go to IdentityTheft.gov and choose the option that best describes your situation.
Answer all the questions that follow and fill out the information that is requested. You’ll be asked to provide details about the following:
Your personal information
Information about a suspect
Once you’ve filled out all the information you’ll receive an identity theft report as well as a recovery plan. The recovery plan includes helpful information such as advice for the next steps, as well as useful resources like pre-written letters that you can send to creditors.
How Do I Report Identity Theft to IRS
If someone has filed a tax return under your name to steal your tax refund or tax credit you need to file a report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You can do so by contacting the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit by calling 800-908-4490. You also need to fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039 PDF and mail it to the IRS.
How Do I File a Police Report For Identity Theft
In most cases it is also recommended to report identity theft to your local law enforcement.
Especially if you know the person who stole your identity or someone used your name in an interaction with police, reporting theft to your local law enforcement is very important. Sometimes creditors may also require you to provide a police report in order to prove that your identity has been stolen.
When you file a police report for identity theft, make sure you have the following:
Copy of your FTC identity theft report
A valid government-issued photo ID and address to verify your identity
Documents such as credit card statements, IRS notices, collections notices or other communication that proves your identity has been stolen
How To Report Identity Theft To Credit Bureaus
Equifax, TransUnion & Experia are the three major credit reporting agencies in the US. You should contact one of them in case your identity has been stolen so you can place a fraud alert and prevent the fraudster from opening a new credit line under your name.
Fraud alert is a security measure which requires the credit bureaus to take additional steps to verify your identity before approving a request for credit. To place the alert you need an identity theft report from the FTC or a police report to prove that your identity has been stolen. An extended fraud alert lasts up to 7 years.
Here’s how to contact the three credit bureaus to place the alert:
How To Make Sure Identity Theft Doesn’t Happen Again
As you already know by now, it takes a lot of time and effort to deal with the aftermath of a stolen identity. Depending on the type of fraud, it may take weeks or months to restore your reputation and set the records straight. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that your personal information never gets compromised again. Here are some tips on how to prevent identity theft in the future:
1. Create strong passwords
Never use the same password twice and make sure your passwords aren’t easy to guess. The same goes with your devices – as tempting as it is to have 1234 as your passcode, the cost of this convenience can be high. We recommend using a password manager to keep track of all your passwords.
2. Protect your mail
One place where your information can easily get to the wrong hands is through your postal mail. Locking your mailbox and investigating any instances of missing bills is an important preventative measure against identity theft. If you’re leaving the town for a while, you can always place a hold on your mail or have some trusted friend collect it for you.
3. Beware of phishing attempts
Phishing happens when a fraudster contacts you via phone or email disguised as a reputable source (such as a bank) and tries to steal your information. Therefore, it’s important not to click on any links on emails or provide any personal information over the phone unless you’re 100% sure that the person contacting you is legitimate.
Keep in mind that most organizations would never have a reason to ask your details via email or phone. If you’re not sure if the call or email is legit, you can always reach out to the organization to confirm.
4. Be careful what you share online
Being cautious about what you share online is also key to keeping your information safe. Make sure you never share any sensitive personal information on social media or other sites and preferably use a fake name. We recommend making your profiles private and always using masked email when signing up to any platform.
Also don’t forget that nothing is ever free. When downloading “free” resources or apps for example – you usually pay for them by giving away rights to sell your personal details.
5. Browse securely
Even if you’re not willingly sharing your information your data might still end up in the wrong hands due to a lack of sufficient digital privacy measures. Computer malware programs and third-party cookies are just some ways that people have their personal information compromised. Here are some ways you can browse the web more securely:
In order to protect your information you need to remove all information from the web that includes your personal information. This is how you do it:
Use Google and other search engines to perform an incognito search of your name.
Look at the results and note down all sites that have information about you that you’re not comfortable with.
Get in touch with the site administrator to remove your personal information. To find out who to contact, you can either try the details provided on the website or search for them using the whois.com tool.
If your sensitive information such as SSN or bank account information is available online and the website doesn’t respond to your request to take it down, you can also ask Google to help. They won’t remove it from the site directly, but they can make sure it doesn’t appear in search results.
7. Remove yourself from Data Broker sites
Removing yourself from the search results unfortunately isn’t enough to keep your information safe. Most data brokers still have access to your sensitive information even though it’s not visible in the search results.
Data brokers are corporations that collect and sell your data online. They make money by gathering as much information about you as possible by crawling the web and then selling it forward to companies and individuals. They know your personal details such as your age, address, previous address, phone number, names of your relatives, as well as things like your transaction history and shopping habits.
The amount of data these companies have of you is frightening and poses a huge risk for identity theft. Therefore, it’s vital to remove yourself from all the data broker sites. You can do this manually by using our free DIY opt-out guide. Just go through each data broker and follow the instructions.
The process is not super complicated but can take a lot of time. Also, unfortunately, just doing it once is not enough. Data brokers will always find new ways to access your information and therefore you need to delete your information from these sites at least every few months.
However, there’s also an easier solution. If you don’t have the time to do the deletion process repeatedly yourself, you can always sign up for DeleteMe and let us do it for you.
Now you should have a better idea on how to report identity theft, how to report it and how to prevent it in the future.
As identity thefts are becoming increasingly common and the fraudsters are getting smarter – it’s necessary to start taking online privacy very seriously. Especially in a case where your information has already been compromised once, it’s vital to take the necessary preventative measures to stop it from happening again.
The less information there is available on the Internet, the less chance there is to get your identity stolen again.
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