How to Report Identity Theft

Know the ways to report identity theft and stop the damage.

Identity theft occurs when someone uses personal information like your name, Social Security number, driver’s license number, or your bank accounts and credit cards, to pass themselves off as you for purposes of fraud, according to consumer advocate attorney Howard Silver. When you’re the victim of stolen identity, you need to know how to report identity theft to every appropriate place. Learn these eight ways to report identity theft so you can recover when your personal information is stolen.

1. Report Identity Theft to the Federal Trade Commission

“Report identity theft to the FTC by filling out its online form or calling 877-438-4338,” said Gary McAlum, chief security officer at financial services group USAA. “You will then receive a personalized identity theft report and recovery plan. The report is proof that you’ve been a victim of identity theft and gives you certain rights under the Fraud Victim Bill of Rights. For example, you have the right to ask businesses not to report information about you to credit bureaus if the information is due to identity theft.”

See: 2.5 Million More Affected By Equifax Hack — Here’s What You Should Do

2. Report Identity Theft to the Police Department

Once you’ve reported the identity theft to the FTC, go to your local police department to file a detailed police report. File reports in each jurisdiction where the thief committed fraud, and consider filing one with the state police.

The police officer who takes your report should attach a copy of the FTC report. If the police are reluctant to help you file an identity theft report, ask to file a “miscellaneous incident” report instead, or get in touch with your local attorney general’s office for further guidance.

3. Report Identity Theft to the Credit Bureaus

“Notify either Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion of the fraud and get a free credit report,” McAlum advised. “This will activate a free 90-day fraud alert, making it harder for anyone to open an account in your name when they do a credit check. Note that it is not necessary to contact all three credit bureaus, as each is required to notify the other two. Shortly after, you should receive a letter from each credit bureau confirming that they have placed a fraud alert on your account.”

The credit bureau contact numbers to place fraud alerts are:

  • Equifax: 800-525-6285
  • Experian: 888-397-3742
  • TransUnion: 800-680-7289

4. Report Identity Theft to Your Creditors and Financial Institutions

Contact your banks, credit card companies, and any other lenders and financial institutions where the identity thief could access your money or credit lines. This is the most time-consuming step, according to David Bakke, a financial blogger at MoneyCrashers. “Financial institutions and creditors with whom you have accounts will need to be contacted individually,” he said.

See: Types of Identity Theft Protection Your Bank Offers

5. Report Identity Theft to the Internal Revenue Service

An identity thief can cause you trouble with the IRS by using your Social Security number to file for your tax refund or get a job in your name. If you suspect this type of fraud, McAlum said to fill out IRS Identity Theft Affidavit Form 14039.

6. Report Identity Theft to the Post Office

Identity theft might result in missing mail if the thief is intercepting credit card statements and other important documents. Review your mail to determine whether you’re missing something that you know was mailed by a bank or creditor, and if you are, call the senders and ask if they received a change of address request. Thieves sometimes divert mail by filling one out in the victim’s name. If that’s not the case, call the U.S. Postal Service at 800-275-8777 or visit your local branch to fill out a report.

7. Report Identity Theft to the Department of Motor Vehicles

One way identity thieves get your information is by stealing your driver’s license to commit identity fraud. Alert your local DMV as soon as you realize this important piece of ID has fallen into the wrong hands so you can start the process of obtaining a new driver’s license. You can find local offices by visiting your state’s DMV website. Call your local office first so you’re sure to bring the correct documents to get your replacement license.

8. Report Identity Theft to Your Medical Insurance Company

Identity theft isn’t just about stealing from your bank accounts or opening credit cards in your name. Some thieves pretend to be you to see doctors, get prescription drugs, and have medical procedures done. If you suspect medical identity fraud, get copies of your medical records from all your providers, including doctors, pharmacies, clinics and hospitals. Report any suspicious findings to your medical insurance company. This information should also be shared on your FTC and police reports.

Related: 6 Best Identity Theft Protections

Identity protection and credit monitoring services have their place, but they’re not ways to prevent identity theft. They simply alert you to problems. Immediately report suspected identity theft to the appropriate places to minimize the damage and start the recovery process.