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Recovering From Identity Theft or Fraud

Publications

AGO ID Theft Brochure for Consumers

FTC Publication: Take Charge 
(includes affidavit for victims)

Federal Trade Commission: Identity Theft

Which are you?

As a victim of identity theft or fraud, you should take the following steps as soon as possible.

1. Place a fraud alert and/or security freeze on your credit reports.

You can a place a fraud alert with one, simple phone call. This can help prevent an identity thief from opening additional accounts in your name, but doesn't block potential new credit like a security freeze. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will automatically be notified to place fraud alerts, and all three credit reports will be sent to you free of charge. Once you receive the reports, review them carefully for accounts you didn't open, debts you can't explain or inaccurate information.

A security freeze is even stronger and prevents your files from being shared with potential creditors. A security freeze can help prevent identity theft since most businesses will not open credit accounts without checking a consumer's credit history first. You, too, will not be able to open new credit while a freeze is in place. Individuals can request that a freeze be temporarily lifted for the purpose of obtaining new credit.

Click here for instructions on requesting a fraud alert or security freeze.

2. Report the crime to your bank, creditors and credit reporting agencies.

Ask to speak to someone in the security or fraud department. They may advise you to close your accounts and start over with new ones. Also, ask your financial institution what procedures they require of victims whose credit cards or checks have been stolen or forged.

Within 30 days of receiving proof of a consumer's identification and a copy of a filed police report verifying the consumer's claim that he or she is the victim of identity theft, a credit reporting agency must permanently block information from a credit report that may be the result of identity theft.

3. Report the crime to the police or sheriff's office in the area where you live or where the crime occurred.

Identity theft is a felony, and charges may be filed against the thief in the county where you live or where the crime took place. Ask the police to make a police report and give you a copy. You will need this to help correct your credit rating.

4: Send a copy of the police report to the three major consumer-reporting agencies.

The credit bureaus are required to block information victims identify as resulting from identify theft. Once the three consumer-reporting agencies receive the police report and a request from you, they are required to block any adverse credit reports resulting from the crime.

5: Ask businesses to provide you with information about transactions made in your name.

By law, businesses must give you this information, but may require proof of your identity -- including a copy of the police report and your fingerprints. If you need to obtain your fingerprints for this purpose, the Washington State Patrol provides this service. You will pay a fee and will have to wait for processing before you receive a letter notifying you that the fingerprints are on file. Businesses refusing to provide information to you may be subject to actual damages, plus a $1,000 penalty for willful violations. You may present this letter to businesses and creditors as proof of your identity.

Here is a template for a letter that you can complete and send to businesses to request records.

6: Contact the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Hotline, 1-877-IDTHEFT or visit the FTC’s ID Theft web site. Among other things, the FTC site provides a uniform ID Theft Affidavit that is accepted and endorsed by many businesses. 

Additional Considerations:

Tell the prosecuting attorney that if the person who stole your identity is found guilty, you'd like the court to issue you an Order Correcting Public Records. This is a court order you can use to correct public records damaged by identity theft. Show the Order Correcting Records to your bank and send a copy to your creditors so they can correct your records.

Be prepared for contacts from creditors who may want you to pay the debts of identity thieves who used stolen or fake checks to make purchases or pay bills in your name. Explain to them that you have been the victim of identity theft. Provide them with the police report and, if you have one, an Order Correcting Records. Once the collection agency has been notified that the debt is a result of an identity theft, under the law the collection agency may not continue to call you. This prevents victims from being inundated with calls for every misused check if they have had a box or book of checks stolen or forged.

Although calls might stop, you may still be subject to legal action by credit agencies. However, there are limits on what a collection agency can do to try to collect a debt from you. Specifically, a collection agency may not call a debtor more than once in 180 days in order to collect on debts associated with an identity theft, as long as the victim forwards information regarding the alleged theft to the collection agency.

The victim must provide:

  1. A written statement describing the nature of the fraud or theft and identifying the documents and/or accounts involved;
  2. A certified copy of the relevant police report;
  3. Detailed information specifically identifying the relevant financial institutions, account numbers , check numbers, etc.
  4. A legible copy of a government issued photo identification card issued before the date of the alleged identity theft; and
  5. A statement that the subject debt is being disputed as the result of identity theft. Collection agencies are only prohibited from calling consumers about transactions which have been identified as fraudulent.

(Under certain limited circumstances a collection agency may be free of liability for repeated oral contacts with a debtor, contacts that would otherwise violate the statute. A collection agency does not violate the statute if it acts in good faith and the contacts fall under any one of several specified exceptions.)


If your information has been lost or stolen, here are steps detect misuse and help prevent potential future misuse:

1. Place a fraud alert and/or security freeze on your credit reports.

You can a place a fraud alert with one, simple phone call. This can help prevent an identity thief from opening additional accounts in your name, but doesn't block potential new credit like a security freeze. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will automatically be notified to place fraud alerts, and all three credit reports will be sent to you free of charge. Once you receive the reports, review them carefully for accounts you didn't open, debts you can't explain or inaccurate information.

A security freeze is even stronger and prevents your files from being shared with potential creditors. A security freeze can help prevent identity theft since most businesses will not open credit accounts without checking a consumer's credit history first. You, too, will not be able to open new credit while a freeze is in place. Individuals can request that a freeze be temporarily lifted for the purpose of obtaining new credit.

Click here for instructions on requesting a fraud alert or security freeze.

2. Monitor your financial accounts, billing statement and credit reports for any suspicious activity.

You may request a free annual credit report from each of the major nationwide credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.


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