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My Identity Has Been Stolen: Now What?

Written by Megan Craig on December 15, 2015 in Credit  |   10 comments

You have just been denied a loan for a new home because of your credit, which surprises you because you’ve always kept on top of your finances. That’s when it hits you: You’re one of millions of Americans each year whose identity is stolen. “Most…

MyIDWasStolenYou have just been denied a loan for a new home because of your credit, which surprises you because you’ve always kept on top of your finances. That’s when it hits you: You’re one of millions of Americans each year whose identity is stolen.

“Most people are going to find out that they have been victims of identity theft at the most inconvenient times,” says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).

Usually, the news comes as part of a background check for a potential job or new apartment. As a result of running that check, people are denied credit due to potentially negative information found in their credit report.

Velasquez’s top advice for identity theft victims: “Don’t panic, but do react.”

After recovering from the initial shock of your identity being stolen, Velasquez recommends taking these five steps to mitigate the damage:

1. Contact any financial institutions or companies where you know identity theft has occurred.

All credit card companies have identity theft departments, and the FTC suggests calling those departments to report that your identity has been compromised. The companies you contact should then close or freeze the accounts for you so no one can add new charges without your permission.

2. Put a fraud alert on your credit reports with the three major credit reporting agencies.

Once you contact one major credit reporting agency (CRA) and explain that you’re a victim of identity theft, that agency is required to alert the other two. According to the FTC, an initial ID theft alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open additional accounts in your name.

3. File a police report with your local law enforcement agency.

According to the FDIC, which insures many of the nation’s consumer bank accounts, reporting identity theft in a timely fashion may improve the chances of recovering what you’ve lost and allows the authorities to take appropriate action. Although it’s also important to report the issue to federal authorities, local law enforcement agencies may be able to provide the most direct advice and assistance.

4. Fill out an ID Theft Affidavit with the FTC.

The FTC accepts reports in three ways: on its website at www.ftc.gov, by telephone at 1-877-IDTHEFT, or by mail to Consumer Response Center, FTC, 600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC, 20580. All ID Theft related complaints sent to the FTC are entered into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database that law enforcement agencies nationwide and overseas can search.

5. Start monitoring all your accounts.

If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you should be checking your credit reports regularly. You can obtain one free copy of your credit report each year from all three major CRAs at annualcreditreport.com. The U.S. Department of Justice also suggests carefully checking monthly credit statements for any suspicious or false charges.

“Of course, the sooner you find out about the problem, the less time has lapsed in which the thief can use your identity,” Velasquez says. “The longer the individual’s personal information is used unnoticed, the more damage is done and the longer it may take to clean up.”

Once you’ve taken these initial steps, you can begin to turn the focus to any long-term steps to repair your good name.

“When you are a victim of identity theft, there is most often not an overnight solution,” Velasquez says. “So act quickly, take good notes, and stay organized. Make sure to take care of yourself emotionally, as identity theft has many [effects] on victims more far-reaching than the most widely known financial impact.”

Megan Craig is a Chicago-based journalist and communications professional who writes mostly about personal finance and consumer issues. She is a former reporter and editor for the Chicago Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @megcraig1.

Related Articles
The Top Six Mistakes I Made After Tax Identity Theft
What to Know About Identity Theft When Buying or Selling Your Home
Identity Theft Protection: How to Safely Carry Your Medicare Card

The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.


10 comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    When I realized within about an hour that something fishy was going on I looked at something that I misunderstood at first, then called a phone number related to it and discovered and stopped it immediately. Then I contacted all of my credit card companies and alerted them. I made a police report the same day. After a couple days I was concerned about Social Security being contacted and stopped in and they flagged my account to keep it safe. After 18 months there seems to be no damage, but I do get phone calls about my computer having problems that they supposedly have to repair immediately. I know they are lying to me and sometimes recognize their voices. It is still a concern, but I remain vigilant and admit that it has affected me emotionally.

  2. Phillip G. A. says:

    It really hurts me to find out that this has happened to me.I really don’t know what to do.the problem is at the time all this happened when I was in prison.I didn’t come home until May 13,2015.I’m on dialysis now and have been for over 11,years.I’m very trying to get my identity back after over 23 years in prison.I try not to stress but it’s hard.Thank you for your help.God bless you

  3. Rosemary says:

    How can I talk to a person? Having trouble online. Need credit alert for identity theft.

  4. Shunna J says:

    Unfortunately I lost my social security card when I was 17 and ever since then people have been on a rampage with my identity I have been able to prove a few things that weren’t me because of my age at the time and I did not have a driver’s license to get the things that were taken out in my name but now that I am getting ready to try and purchase a home I have a couple of addresses under my social that I have never lived in and it’s a pain to try and prove that it is not me

  5. CATHY says:

    MY ID WAS STOLEN IN 2013
    I JUST NOW GOT IT SETTLED WITH THE IRS FOR MY TAXES FOR 2013, 2014, & 2015
    SO I AM DISPUTE CLAIMS AGAINST ME IN THIS YEARS THAT I JUST MENTION

  6. Stan B says:

    Tablet was stolen and pictures of My Passport and drivers license was on it.
    Is there a danger of fraud with this .

  7. Rose B says:

    I’m a veteran going through divorce and this is the biggest pain in the butt ever! Divorce and I found out my identity theft goes back to 2005/2006!

  8. Disgusted says:

    I thought I was dealing with a legitimate company and sent a photo copy of my ID card s.s card pay stub and utility bill and then found out they was just scam artists stealing all my info how can people be so heartless never give out this info unless you are absolutely sure now I’m going through way more than I want to!!


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