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Identity theft can take many forms, from your bank account or credit cards being used without permission to someone using your personal information to open new accounts or commit other forms of fraud. Whatever way a person’s identity was stolen — whether it was from shoulder surfers at the local gas station or a more sophisticated online scam — or for whatever purposes it was used, the result is often the same for the victim: He’s left feeling violated and unsure of what to do next.
The following steps cover how to report identity theft and what measures to take to ensure the compromised accounts are secured or closed.
1. File a Police Report
Filing a police report is an important step in mitigating any further damage after having your identity stolen, like having fraudulent charges show up on your credit report. According to Section 605b of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, an identity theft report gives the victim certain protections by law. This is helpful in preventing you from spending countless hours trying to fix your credit later. These rights include barring fraudulent debts and other information from appearing on future credit reports and prohibiting collection agencies from trying to collect a debt that resulted from identity theft.
You can file a report with your local police department. Here are some things you’ll need to file a police report:
- A copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit
- A government-issued ID with a photo
- Proof of your address, such as mortgage statement, rental agreement or utility bill
- Any other proof you have of the theft, such as bills or IRS notices
2. File a Report With Your Bank, Credit Union or Credit Card Company
If your bank accounts were accessed without authorization, the first step you should take is to contact your financial institution and either cancel your ATM or credit cards and order new ones, or place a stop payment on all checks and close your account, which might result in your being given a new bank account number. The bank can also report identity theft to its check verification system, which is one more safeguard against clearing fraudulent checks.
If your checks are being used, contact ChexSystems, a company which collects checking account information, for a free report. This report will likely contain information about your checking account activity.
If you find that any new accounts have been opened in your name, you’ll need to contact every financial institution where those fraudulent accounts were opened so that you can have them closed.
3. File an FTC Report
Although the Federal Trade Commission doesn’t investigate identity theft cases itself, it will provide the information you submit to the parties who do investigate. Filing an FTC complaint is fairly simple and can be done online or by phone.
Using the information you provide, the FTC will create an affidavit that it will keep on file; you’ll also receive a copy that you can print and save. This affidavit is generally universally accepted by creditors. So if your credit card was stolen or a credit card was opened in your name, you would report the violation to the appropriate company and it would likely access your identity fraud report from the FTC.
4. Alert the Credit Bureaus
Issue a fraud report to one of the three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax or Experian. The bureau you report the fraud to will alert the other two. This fraud alert is good for 90 days — you can renew the fraud alert after that time — and reduces the risk of more accounts being opened in your name.
Next, if any of the fraudulent charges or accounts appear on your credit reports, write a letter to each agency and include supporting documents. A sample letter might look like the following:
Include the names of all the unauthorized accounts that you wish to be removed from your credit reports, and provide supporting documentation like a copy of your identity theft report, as well as proof of your identity, such as your name, address and Social Security number (SSN).
This article originally appears on GoBankingRates.