It's your worst fear come true: you receive a data breach notification letter or spot suspicious activity on your bank statement indicating someone has stolen your information. While no one wants to learn they have become an identity theft victim, it's important to protect your personal and financial accounts after discovering someone else used your information without your permission.
Filing an identity theft report is a crucial first step to get your records in order before more damage is done and consumers should follow the guidelines provided by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
Here is a step-by-step guide to file an identity theft report:
1. Send a Report to the FTC
The FTC regularly helps consumers who find themselves in the midst of an identity theft scam. You can submit your identity theft complaint online through the FTC's Complaint Assistant or you can call the FTC to speak with a representative. Include as much information as you can about your case and which accounts have been affected or opened without your authorization, the FTC's Complaint Assistant noted.
2. Save the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit
It's also important to keep records of all the complaints you filed or evidence showing your were an identity theft victim. After completing the FTC report and submitting it to the agency online, click on the link that will take you to a page to receive and save the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. If you submitted your report over the phone, ask the representative for a complaint reference number and Affidavit password.
3. File a Report with Law Enforcement Authorities
In addition to filing a report with the FTC, you should also notify local law enforcement authorities about your brush with identity theft. Before going to the police department, have your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit ready, as well as other documents showing the identity theft, such as a bank statement listing an unauthorized purchase or a debt collection letter requesting payment for an account you were not aware of. You should also display a government-issued ID card that verifies your identity and proof of address that shows you live at your current residence.
After you file the FTC and police reports, continue to keep a record of the theft and monitor your credit and bank statements, Equifax recommended. To further safeguard your information, you can request a credit freeze from one of the three main credit reporting bureaus and dispute errors that appeared on your credit report as a result of identity theft.
Brett Montgomery is a fraud operations manager at CyberScout.