How to Deal With Identity Theft

One crime that is on the increase in the early 21st century is stealing another person's identity and using it inappropriately.  Here is some critical information that should prove helpful in limiting the damage if you or someone you know is the victim of identity theft. 

Be prepared

  • Everyone advises that you cancel your credit cards immediately, but the key is having the toll-free numbers and your card account numbers handy so you know whom to call when the time comes.  Keeping this information where you can easily find it will assist you in avoiding any undue stress should you ever be victimized.  Have duplicate copies and check the list periodically to make sure it's current.
  • For an excellent source of information entitled "When Bad Things Happen to Your Good Name," visit http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/, which is a site operated by the Federal Trade Commission.

When it happens

  • Immediately file a police report in the jurisdiction where the theft took place.  Doing so indicates to your creditors that you were diligent in following through on the matter.  Make sure you get a copy of the report number.
  • After you've called the credit card companies, write to each of them, keeping a copy of each letter.  Tell the company that you've reported the loss over the telephone, specifying the date and time and, if possible, the person with whom you spoke.  Thank them for their assistance and offer to work with them to determine which charges on your card are legitimately yours and which are fraudulent.
  • Place a telephone call to 877-IDTHEFT or 877-438-4338. This is the central point of contact within the federal government for identity theft.
  • Perhaps the most important action you can take is to immediately call the three national credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number.  This fraud alert means that any company that checks your credit will discover that your information was stolen and that you must be contacted by phone before new credit can be authorized.

Use the following credit bureau phone numbers to report fraud:

1)    Equifax                 800-525-6285   (http://http/www.equifax.com)

2)    Experian (formerly TRW)  888-397-3742 (http://http/www.experian.com)

3)    Trans Union            800-680-7289 (http://www.transunion.com/)

  • The Social Security Administration's fraud hotline is 800-269-0271.  They should be contacted if someone has stolen your Social Security card or is using your number fraudulently.   Such  fraud is handled through the Social Security Administration's Inspector General, whose national office is in Baltimore,  Maryland. You can e-mail them at oig.hotline@ssa.gov, fax them at  410-597-0118 or write them at:

SSA Fraud Hotline

PO Box 17768

Baltimore MD 21235

  • The site for the United States Department of Justice contains details on defining internet fraud, what to do about it, and where to go to get more information.  You can visit the site at  http://www.internetfraud.usdoj.gov/.

Information on this flyer was obtained from several sources on the internet and the contact information was current as of mid-October, 2001.  Addresses and telephone numbers change periodically and internet searches may be the best source for the most current information.