What to do if you’re a victim of ID theft

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans are the victims of identity theft each year. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years and a lot of money cleaning up the mess thieves leave behind. According to the FTC, these are the steps you can take to repair the damage.

  1. Create an FTC Identity Theft Report by filing a report at identitytheft.gov/Assistant. Your FTC Identity Theft Report helps prove to businesses that someone stole your identity, and makes it easier to correct problems caused by identity theft.

  2. Place an alert on your credit report as part of an overall plan. The fraud alert tells creditors they must take reasonable steps to verify who is applying for credit in your name.

  3. Check your credit report. When you place a one-year fraud alert, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit reports. You’ll get a confirmation letter from each credit bureau with instructions for how to get your free reports.

  4. Place a seven-year extended fraud alert on your credit report. To do this, send a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report to each credit bureau. The extended fraud alert means potential creditors must contact you before they issue credit in your name. In your letter, be sure to list the best way for a creditor to reach you.

  5. Get credit bureaus to remove fraudulent information from your credit report. This is called blocking. You must send them a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report, proof of your identity, and a letter stating which information is fraudulent. The credit bureau must tell the relevant creditor that someone stole your identity. Creditors cannot turn fraudulent debts over to debt collectors.

  6. Dispute fraudulent or inaccurate information on your credit report. Do this by writing to the credit bureau. They must investigate your dispute and amend your report if you are right.

  7. Place a free credit freeze on your credit report. A credit freeze, also called a security freeze, makes it less likely that an identity thief could open a new account in your name.

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