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Reporting identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission is your best way to alert authorities to fraud. It’s also important to put a fraud alert on your credit accounts, at the very least — and consider going for greater protection by freezing your credit.
Here’s how to report identity theft to authorities and other organizations so that you can start your recovery.
Report identity theft to the FTC
Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov or 877-438-4338. This preserves your rights, including your ability to get fraudulent accounts off your credit report.
At the site, you can also get a customized checklist to help you repair the damage. After reporting your identity theft to the FTC, you may also choose to file a report with your local police department. Take a copy of the FTC report with you.
If you believe your identity was stolen via mail theft, report it to the U.S. Postal Service.
Place a fraud alert with credit bureaus
If you suspect your personal information has been exposed, place an initial fraud alert on your credit files so that applications in your name get extra scrutiny.
This alert is available to anyone who suspects identity theft. Contact any bureau, and it will take care of notifying the others:
The alert entitles you to another round of free credit reports, beyond the ones you get every 12 months by using AnnualCreditReport.com. These can help you discover fraudulent credit accounts.
Contact the companies involved
For fraudulent charges on an existing credit card, in most cases, you have zero liability as long as you report the problem promptly to the card issuer. The card will be canceled and you will get a new card with a different number. Remember to update autopay accounts, and consider grouping all recurring charges on a single card to simplify things if this should happen again.
If you need help removing bogus charges from accounts, use the credit bureau dispute process.
If new accounts were opened, call the customer service department to get help closing them. The FTC has a sample letter you can use if written notice is required. You may be asked to provide a copy of a police report.
In all cases, keep notes of the date and time you called, whom you talked to and what steps you were told to take.
Consider a credit freeze or extended fraud alert
Then, think about protecting yourself in the future. A credit freeze is considered the surest way to ensure your credit isn’t used without your consent. Credit freezes with the major credit bureaus are free.
If you don’t want to place freezes, you can get an extended fraud alert that lasts for seven years. Like the initial one, you need contact only one of the bureaus. But this time you’ll need to provide documentation, including an identity theft report: