What is identity theft? Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft. The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn't make—or until you’re contacted by a debt collector.
Recovering From Identity Theft
If someone stole your identity, act fast. Fast action can help reduce the damage identity theft can cause.
What should I do if a thief uses my information?
Step 1: Place an initial fraud alert on your three credit reports.
Call the toll-free fraud number of any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on their credit report. Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening additional accounts in your name. As soon as the credit bureau confirms the fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will automatically be notified to place fraud alerts. Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Step 2: Order your credit reports.
Call all three credit reporting companies and order your credit report from each. Identity theft victims can get the reports for free.
You might know that some of your accounts are affected by identity theft. Contact those accounts now. Talk to someone in the fraud department of the company. Then write the company a letter.
Step 3: Create an Identity Theft Report.
Submit a complaint to the FTC. You can call or do it online.
By phone: Call 1-877-438-4338 (TTY 1-866-653-4261)
Talk to a counselor. The counselor will ask questions to gather information about your complaint.
Ask the counselor to email you a link so that you can print your complaint. Your completed complaint is called the “Identity Theft Affidavit.”
Go online to save or print your Identity Theft Affidavit.
Online: Go to ftc.gov/complaint
Type your information into the online form, following the prompts on every screen.
Review the information you typed.
Click the button to submit your complaint. Your submitted complaint is called an “Identity Theft Affidavit.”
Save the complaint reference number.
Click the link to save the Identity Theft Affidavit to your computer.
Print your Identity Theft Affidavit. Keep it in a safe place.
File a police report. Take your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit with you. Get a copy of the police report or the number of the police report.
Attach your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit to your police report. That is your Identity Theft Report. Keep it in a safe place.
In Massachusetts, everyone is entitled to one free credit report from each credit reporting agency per year. If you would like to order a free copy of your credit report please click here to be directed to annualcreditreport.com
Understanding what identity theft is and how to prevent it is something we strongly recommend. Here are some identity theft informational resources that may help you better protect your identity:
FTC Taking charge
FTC - Avoid ID Theft
President's ID Theft Task Force
National White Collar Crime Center/Victim Voice
Identity Theft Protection Services - Reviews.com
Identity Theft Protection Services - Consumeraffairs.com
Identity Theft Resource Center
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