What is identity theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name, Social Security Number, date of birth, or other identifying information, without permission, to commit fraud. For example, someone may have committed identity theft by using your personal information to open a credit card account or get a loan in your name.

What can you do if you are a Victim of Identity Theft?

The following items are included in your credit file.
  • Keep a record. Because recovering from identity theft can be a long and complicated process, it's important to keep a record of all of your communications. Send all letters by certified mail and keep copies. If you think your case might lead to a lawsuit, keep track of how much time you spend dealing with the problem.
  • Call the police. Report the crime to the police or sheriff's department that has jurisdiction in your case and request a police report. Though the authorities are often unable to assist you, a police report may be necessary to help convince creditors that someone else has opened an account in your name.
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission. Call the FTC's identity theft hotline at 877-438-4338 and file a complaint. The FTC does not resolve individual consumer problems itself, but your complaint may lead to law enforcement action.
  • Check your credit reports. Get your credit reports from all three nationwide credit reporting agencies and check for inquiries that you do not recognize and any new accounts opened in your name. Because new accounts may take up to six months to show up on the report, continue to monitor your credit reports on a regular basis.
  • Contact one of the three Nationwide Credit Reporting Agencies to place a fraud alert. Have one of the agencies put a fraud alert on your file, which will aid in preventing new credit accounts from being opened without your express permission. Equifax and the other two credit reporting agencies, Experian and TransUnion, work together so that when you place an alert with one of these agencies, your request is automatically sent to the other two agencies (see information about fraud alerts).
  • Place a security freeze on your credit files at each of the three Nationwide Credit Reporting Agencies. You may request a security freeze be placed on your credit files at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You will have to contact each of them individually in order to place a security freeze on their credit file on you (see information about a security freeze).
  • Block or close fraudulent accounts. Contact the appropriate creditors, banks, phone companies, and utility companies and have them close and discontinue reporting the accounts. You'll probably be liable for only $50 of the fraudulent charges, but different issuers have different policies. Most creditors promptly issue replacement cards with new account numbers.
  • Mail fraud. If you suspect that someone has changed your address with the post office or used the mail to commit identity theft, notify the US Postal Inspector.
  • Fraud using your Social Security number. If your Social Security number has been used to commit identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is charged with handling most identity theft complaints at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338). To order a copy of your Social Security Administration earnings and benefits statement to check whether someone has used your Social Security number to get a job or to avoid paying taxes
  • Fraud involving your driver's license number. If your driver's license number has been used to open accounts or verify checks, contact your state's Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • Fraud involving your passport. Notify the U.S. State Department's Passport Services Department of the identity theft so that it can intercept anyone ordering a new passport in your name.
  • Fraud involving a business scam. If the fraud was perpetrated as part of a business scam, contact the National Fraud Information Center at 800-876-7060.
  • Bankruptcy filed using your name. If someone filed for bankruptcy using your name write to the U.S. Trustee in the region where the bankruptcy was filed. A listing of the U.S. Trustee Program's Regions can be found at, or look in the blue pages of your phone book under US Government: Bankruptcy Administration. Your letter should describe the situation and provide proof of your identity.

What should I do if I think I may be a victim of identity theft?

You should place an initial fraud alert on your file as soon as you suspect you might be a victim of identity theft. You can do this online at the three credit reporting companies:

Here are some other steps you can take:

  • Contact the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or charged without your knowledge.
  • File a report with law enforcement officials to help you correct your credit report and deal with creditors who may want proof of the crime.
  • Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
  • Report theft to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau by submitting a complaint. Your complaint helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigations. To find out more , visit the CFPB's website