As a victim of identity theft or fraud, you should take the following steps as soon as possible.
- 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.
- Place a fraud alert and/or security freeze on your credit reports.
You can 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.
- 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.
- 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. You may present this letter to businesses and creditors as proof of your identity.
- 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.