Effective Sept. 21, 2018, security freezes and fraud alerts will change under a new federal law. Placing, temporarily lifting and removing security freezes is now free for consumers, and initial fraud alerts increased from 90 days to one year. For more information, please click here.
You’ve followed all of our tips for how to prevent your personal information from being compromised and what to do in case of a data breach, but sometimes the best intentions can’t prevent identity theft. While this situation is extremely inconvenient and can lead to greater financial stress if not checked, you still have options to limit the damage from identity theft. What to do if you are a victim of identity theft
- Check your credit reports. Get your credit reports from all three nationwide credit reporting agencies and check for inquiries that you do not recognize as well as any new accounts opened in your name. New accounts may take up to six months to show up on the report; continue to monitor your credit reports on a regular basis. You can pull one copy of each of your credit reports for free, once a year, at annualcreditreport.com.
- Contact one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (CRAs) to place a fraud alert. A fraud alert will aid in preventing new credit accounts from being opened without your express permission. Equifax and the other two credit reporting agencies, Experian and TransUnion, work together so that when you place an alert with one agency, your request is automatically sent to the other two.
- Place a security freeze on your credit files at each of the three CRAs. You will have to contact each CRA individually in order to place a security freeze.
- Block or close fraudulent accounts. Contact the appropriate creditors, banks, phone companies, and utility companies to have them close and discontinue reporting the accounts.
- Keep a record. Send all letters by certified mail and keep copies. If you think your case might lead to a lawsuit, keep track of how much time you spend dealing with the problem.
- Call the police. Report the crime to the police or sheriff’s department that has jurisdiction in your case and request a police report. A police report may be necessary to help convince creditors that someone has opened an account in your name.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission. Call the FTC’s identity theft hotline at 877-438-4338 and file a complaint. The FTC does not resolve individual consumer problems itself, but your complaint may lead to law enforcement action.
Take action when dealing with specific types of fraud
- Mail fraud. If you suspect that someone has changed your address with the post office or used the mail to commit identity theft, notify the U.S. Postal Inspector.
- Fraud using your Social Security number. If your Social Security number has been used to commit identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is charged with handling most identity theft complaints, at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338). To order a copy of your Social Security Administration earnings and benefits statement to check whether someone has used your Social Security number to get a job or to avoid paying taxes visit www.socialsecurity.gov/statement/.
- Fraud involving your driver’s license number. If your driver’s license number has been used to open accounts or verify checks, contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
- Fraud involving your passport. Notify the U.S. State Department’s Passport Services Department of the identity theft so that it can intercept anyone ordering a new passport in your name.
- Fraud involving a business scam. If the fraud was perpetrated as part of a business scam, contact the National Fraud Information Center at 800-876-7060.
- Bankruptcy filed using your name. If someone filed for bankruptcy using your name, write to the U.S. Trustee in the region where the bankruptcy was filed. A listing of the U.S. Trustee Program’s regions can be found at www.justice.gov/ust/ or look in the blue pages of your phone book under U.S. Government: Bankruptcy Administration. Your letter should describe the situation and provide proof of your identity.
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.