Step-by-Step Guide to Report Financial Identity Theft and Fraud

Being the victim of identity theft or fraud can be traumatizing and upsetting. In the aftermath, people sometimes miss important steps because they feel overwhelmed and hurt by what has happened.

At Addition Financial, we want our members to be empowered to report identity theft as soon as it occurs. We’ve put together this step-by-step guide to help you take the best steps to report what’s happened and reclaim your credit and your life.

Step #1: Contact Your Financial Institutions

The first step you should take is contacting all financial institutions where you have accounts. This will help to minimize the damage and prevent additional charges from being made on your cards.

When you call, you should make sure to let the financial institution know that you have been a victim of identity theft or fraud. You should ask them to place a fraud alert on your accounts. You may also need to request new credit or debit cards if your existing cards have been compromised.

You will be asked to identify any fraudulent charges on your account. You should identify them immediately. With a credit card, your liability will be a maximum of $50. Many credit card companies assume 100% of the liability, meaning you will not be required to take responsibility for any of the fraudulent charges.

Debit cards offer less protection. If you report your debit card stolen before any fraudulent transactions occur, you’ll have no liability. Reporting within two days will limit your liability to $50 and reporting within six months will increase your liability to $500. Beyond that there is no protection.

Step #2: Freeze Your Credit

The second thing to do if you believe your identity has been stolen or you’ve been a victim of fraud is to prevent any additional damage from being done. For that reason, we recommend that you contact all three major credit bureaus and put a freeze on your credit. This step will prevent the thief or thieves from continuing to steal from you.

Here is the information you’ll need to freeze your credit:

  • Equifax allows you to freeze credit on their website, here, or by calling 800-685-1111
  • Contact Experian on their website here or by calling 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)
  • Transunion allows you to freeze credit by clicking here or by calling 888-909-8872

When you freeze your credit, you will be given a PIN or password by each credit bureau. Be sure to keep these passwords in a safe place as you will need them to lift the freeze on your credit.

We recommend a freeze because it’s the best way to prevent anybody from applying for a new account in your name. You can still apply for new accounts by temporarily lifting the freeze and the freeze won’t affect your credit score. It also won’t prevent you from applying to rent an apartment or get a job.

Step #3: Report the Identity Theft to the Federal Trade Commission

After you have placed a freeze on your credit, you should report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC.) You can report in two ways:

  1. By visiting and filing a report
  2. By calling 877-438-4338

Reporting to the FTC preserves your rights and gives you the ability to remove fraudulent accounts and transactions from your credit report. You’ll also be able to download a checklist to help you repair the damage to your credit.

You should print a copy of your FTC report as you may need it to prove you have reported the theft.

Step #4: File a Police Report

Even if you don’t know who stole your identity or used your credit card without authorization, we still recommend that you file a police report in your city or town. Getting the police involved opens another avenue for you to recover what was stolen from you and to prevent the thieves from hurting anyone else.

When you go to the police, make sure to take a copy of the FTC report with you. You should also bring documentation, including bank or credit card statements and any other information that might be relevant to your report.

It’s impossible to predict how much the local police will be able to do to locate the person who stole from you; however, it is their job to investigate and it doesn’t hurt to have them working on your behalf.

Step #5: Report the Theft to the U.S. Postal Service

If you know or suspect that mail fraud played a role in the identity theft you have experienced, then you should report it to the US Postal Service. You can do that by visiting the United States Postal Inspection Service reporting page, here.

Examples of mail fraud might include stealing a credit card application from your mailbox or opening it after it was delivered to the wrong address; using the mail to submit a fraudulent credit card application; or using the mail in any way to collect benefits or use accounts that have been stolen.

It’s also worth noting that the USPIS has a Victim Help Resources page that includes written resources and videos to help victims of identity theft recover their credit and cope with the aftermath of the theft. You can find it here.

Step #6: Pull Copies of Your Credit Reports

After you have completed the initial reporting as outlined above, there are a few additional steps we recommend you take. The first is to request current copies of your credit report from all three major credit bureaus.

Review the reports and highlight any suspicious items. Pay special attention to any new accounts that have been opened using your identity. While the FTC and your financial institutions can repair some of the damage, you should still be proactive in reviewing your credit and identifying potential problems.

As you review your reports, keep in mind that there may be fraudulent activity that goes beyond new credit card accounts or fraudulent charges. Sometimes, identity thieves use stolen identities to open utility accounts, obtain medical services or even to steal tax refunds. Reviewing every item on your report will ensure that you identify every potential problem, so you can recover from the theft.

Step #7: Call Customer Service to Cancel Fraudulent Accounts

What happens if you do identify fraudulent accounts that were opened using your identity? The best course of action is to contact each creditor individually and ask them to close the accounts in question.

We recognize that this can potentially be a time-consuming step; however, it is the best way to prevent the person who stole your credit from taking anything additional from you.

We suggest making a list of creditors and going online to look up the customer service number for each one. Then, call them one at a time and let them know what you have discovered. You should let them know that you have reported the theft to the FTC and your local police. This will allow them to close the accounts and do what they need to do internally to recoup their losses.

Some companies may ask you to submit a request in writing. If that happens, we suggest using this sample letter provided by the FTC. You may also need to provide a copy of the police report, so keep that in mind.

Step #8: Keep Careful Notes

This next step is one that covers the entire process of reporting and recovering from identity theft or fraud. We recommend that you keep careful notes of your actions. You should record:

  • The date and time that you made each phone call or filed each report
  • The full name of the person you spoke with
  • Any relevant information they provided, including account numbers, passwords or PINs

Keeping accurate records will ensure that you can provide requested details to any person or entity that needs them. It will also help you to remember the steps you took and take additional steps as needed.

Step #9: Monitor Your Credit Going Forward

Finally, we suggest signing up for a credit monitoring service to keep an eye on your credit and catch any other problems that arise in a timely manner.

You may also want to consider enrolling in a Credit Lock program once you have repaired the damage to your credit. Credit locks are generally easier to lift than credit freezes and enable you to lock down your credit to prevent anybody unauthorized from opening accounts in your name.

Other things to consider include:

  • Setting up fraud protections and alerts with your credit union, bank, or credit card company
  • Pulling your credit reports regularly to review them for potential problems
  • Setting up a schedule to log in to your bank or credit card accounts to review transactions and identify anything suspicious

After experiencing identity theft or fraud, many people choose to put protective measures in place to ensure that their credit isn’t compromised again.

If your credit has been compromised, you should report identity theft and fraud as soon as you realize they have occurred. Following the steps we’ve outlined here will minimize the damage and help you to recover as quickly as possible.

One of the best ways to protect your identity is to keep your money with a financial institution that values your financial health and security. Click here to learn about the benefits of Addition Financial membership.

The content provided here is not legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. Please consult with legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific needs or questions you may have. We do not make any guarantees as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not support any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability or legal obligations for your use of this information.