Step by Step Instructions After Your Identity is Stolen

The Identity Theft Report

An identity theft report may have two parts:

Part One is a copy of a report filed with a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency, like your local police department, your State Attorney General, the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, the FTC, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. There is no federal law requiring a federal agency to take a report about identity theft; however, some state laws require local police departments to take reports. When you file a report, provide as much information as you can about the crime, including anything you know about the dates of the identity theft, the fraudulent accounts opened and the alleged identity thief.

Note: Knowingly submitting false information could subject you to criminal prosecution for perjury.

Part Two of an identity theft report depends on the policies of the consumer reporting company and the information provider (the business that sent the information to the consumer reporting company). That is, they may ask you to provide information or documentation in addition to that included in the law enforcement report which is reasonably intended to verify your identity theft. They must make their request within 15 days of receiving your law enforcement report, or, if you already obtained an extended fraud alert on your credit report, the date you submit your request to the credit reporting company for information blocking. The consumer reporting company and information provider then have 15 more days to work with you to make sure your identity theft report contains everything they need. They are entitled to take five days to review any information you give them. For example, if you give them information 11 days after they request it, they do not have to make a final decision until 16 days after they asked you for that information. If you give them any information after the 15-day deadline, they can reject your identity theft report as incomplete; you will have to resubmit your identity theft report with the correct information.

You may find that most federal and state agencies, and some local police departments, offer only “automated” reports a report that does not require a face-to-face meeting with a law enforcement officer. Automated reports may be submitted online, or by telephone or mail. If you have a choice, do not use an automated report. The reason? It’s more difficult for the consumer reporting company or information provider to verify the information. Unless you are asking a consumer reporting company to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report, you probably will have to provide additional information or documentation when you use an automated report.

Tips For Organizing Your Case

Accurate and complete records will help you to resolve your identity theft case more quickly.

  • Have a plan when you contact a company. Don’t assume that the person you talk to will give you all the information or help you need. Prepare a list of questions to ask the representative, as well as information about your identity theft. Don’t end the call until you’re sure you understand everything you’ve been told. If you need more help, ask to speak to a supervisor.
  • Write down the name of everyone you talk to, what he or she tells you, and the date the conversation occurred. Use Chart Your Course of Action to help you.
  • Follow up in writing with all contacts you’ve made on the phone or in person. Use certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company or organization received and when.
  • Keep copies of all correspondence or forms you send.
  • Keep the originals of supporting documents, like police reports and letters to and from creditors; send copies only.
  • Set up a filing system for easy access to your paperwork.
  • Keep old files even if you believe your case is closed. Once resolved, most cases stay resolved, but problems can crop up.

Chart Your Course of Action

Use this form to record the steps you’ve taken to report the fraudulent use of your identity. Keep this list in a safe place for reference.

Nationwide Consumer Reporting Companies – Report Fraud

Consumer Reporting Company Phone Number Date Contacted Contact Person Comments
Equifax
1-800-525-6285
Experian
1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
TransUnion
1-800-680-7289

Banks, Credit Card Issuers and Other Creditors
(Contact each creditor promptly to protect your legal rights.)

Creditor Address and Phone Number Date Contacted Contact Person Comments

Law Enforcement Authorities – Report Identity Theft

Agency/Department Phone Number Date Contacted Contact Person Report Number Comments

RESOLVING SPECIFIC PROBLEMS

I received a copy of my credit report and saw about a half a dozen items that I didn’t know anything about. It’s affected my credit rating so badly that I couldn’t get a student loan. I didn’t realize there was a problem until my student loan application was denied.

From a consumer’s complaint to the FTC, May 25, 2004

While dealing with problems resulting from identity theft can be time-consuming and frustrating, most victims can resolve their cases by being assertive, organized, and knowledgeable about their legal rights. Some laws require you to notify companies within specific time periods. Don’t delay in contacting any companies to deal with these problems, and ask for supervisors if you need more help than you’re getting.

Bank Accounts and Fraudulent Withdrawals

Different laws determine your legal remedies based on the type of bank fraud you have suffered. For example, state laws protect you against fraud committed by a thief using paper documents, like stolen or counterfeit checks. But if the thief used an electronic fund transfer, federal law applies. Many transactions may seem to be processed electronically but are still considered “paper” transactions. If you’re not sure what type of transaction the thief used to commit the fraud, ask the financial institution that processed the transaction.

Fraudulent Electronic Withdrawals

The Electronic Fund Transfer Act provides consumer protections for transactions involving an ATM or debit card, or another electronic way to debit or credit an account. It also limits your liability for unauthorized electronic fund transfers.

You have 60 days from the date your bank account statement is sent to you to report in writing any money withdrawn from your account without your permission. This includes instances when your ATM or debit card is “skimmed” that is, when a thief captures your account number and PIN without your card having been lost or stolen.

If your ATM or debit card is lost or stolen, report it immediately because the amount you can be held responsible for depends on how quickly you report the loss.

  • If you report the loss or theft within two business days of discovery, your losses are limited to $50.
  • If you report the loss or theft after two business days, but within 60 days after the unauthorized electronic fund transfer appears on your statement, you could lose up to $500 of what the thief withdraws.
  • If you wait more than 60 days to report the loss or theft, you could lose all the money that was taken from your account after the end of the 60 days.

Note: VISA and MasterCard voluntarily have agreed to limit consumers’ liability for unauthorized use of their debit cards in most instances to $50 per card, no matter how much time has elapsed since the discovery of the loss or theft of the card.

The best way to protect yourself in the event of an error or fraudulent transaction is to call the financial institution and follow up in writing by certified letter, return receipt requested so you can prove when the institution received your letter. Keep a copy of the letter you send for your records.

After receiving your notification about an error on your statement, the institution generally has 10 business days to investigate. The institution must tell you the results of its investigation within three business days after completing it and must correct an error within one business day after determining that it occurred. If the institution needs more time, it may take up to 45 days to complete the investigation but only if the money in dispute is returned to your account and you are notified promptly of the credit. At the end of the investigation, if no error has been found, the institution may take the money back if it sends you a written explanation.

Fraudulent Checks and Other “Paper” Transactions

In general, if an identity thief steals your checks or counterfeits checks from your existing bank account, stop payment, close the account, and ask your bank to notify Chex Systems, Inc. or the check verification service with which it does business. That way, retailers can be notified not to accept these checks. While no federal law limits your losses if someone uses your checks with a forged signature, or uses another type of “paper” transaction such as a demand draft, state laws may protect you. Most states hold the bank responsible for losses from such transactions. At the same time, most states require you to take reasonable care of your account. For example, you may be held responsible for the forgery if you fail to notify the bank in a timely manner that a check was lost or stolen. Contact your state banking or consumer protection agency for more information.

You can contact major check verification companies directly for the following services:

  • To request that they notify retailers who use their databases not to accept your checks, call:
    • TeleCheck at 1-800-710-9898 or 1-800-927-0188
    • Certegy, Inc. (previously Equifax Check Systems) at 1-800-437-5120
  • To find out if the identity thief has been passing bad checks in your name, call:
    • SCAN: 1-800-262-7771

If your checks are rejected by a merchant, it may be because an identity thief is using the Magnetic Information Character Recognition (MICR) code (the numbers at the bottom of checks), your driver’s license number, or another identification number. The merchant who rejects your check should give you its check verification company contact information so you can
find out what information the thief is using. If you find that the thief is using your MICR code, ask your bank to close your checking account, and open a new one. If you discover that the thief is using your driver’s license number or some other identification number, work with your DMV or other identification issuing agency to get new identification with new numbers. Once you have taken the appropriate steps, your checks should be accepted.

Note:

  • The check verification company may or may not remove the information about the MICR code or the driver’s license/identification number from its database because this information may help prevent the thief from continuing to commit fraud.
  • If the checks are being passed on a new account, contact the bank to close the account. Also contact Chex Systems, Inc., to review your consumer report to make sure that no other bank accounts have been opened in your name.
  • Dispute any bad checks passed in your name with merchants so they don’t start any collections actions against you.

Fraudulent New Accounts

If you have trouble opening a new checking account, it may be because an identity thief has been opening accounts in your name. Chex Systems, Inc., produces consumer reports specifically about checking accounts, and as a consumer reporting company, is subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. You can request a free copy of your consumer report by contacting Chex Systems, Inc. If you find inaccurate information on your consumer report, follow the procedures under Correcting Credit Reports to dispute it. Contact each of the banks where account inquiries were made, too. This will help ensure that any fraudulently opened accounts are closed.

Chex Systems, Inc.: 1-800-428-9623; www.chexhelp.com
Fax: 602-659-2197
Chex Systems, Inc.
Attn: Consumer Relations
7805 Hudson Road, Suite 100
Woodbury, MN 55125

Where to Find Help

If you have trouble getting a financial institution to help you resolve your banking-related identity theft problems, including problems with bank-issued credit cards, contact the agency that oversees your bank (see list below). If you’re not sure which of these agencies is the right one, call your bank or visit the National Information Center of the Federal Reserve System at www.ffiec.gov/nic/ and click on “Institution Search.”

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) www.fdic.gov

The FDIC supervises state-chartered banks that are not members of the Federal Reserve System, and insures deposits at banks and savings and loans.

Call the FDIC Consumer Call Center toll-free: 1-800-934-3342; or write: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Division of Compliance and Consumer Affairs, 550 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20429.

FDIC publications:

Federal Reserve System (Fed)www.federalreserve.gov

The Fed supervises state-chartered banks that are members of the Federal Reserve System.

Call: 202-452-3693; or write: Division of Consumer and Community Affairs, Mail Stop 801, Federal Reserve Board, Washington, DC 20551; or contact the Federal Reserve Bank in your area. The Reserve Banks are located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco.

National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) www.ncua.gov

The NCUA charters and supervises federal credit unions and insures deposits at federal credit unions and many state credit unions.

Call: 703-518-6360; or write: Compliance Officer, National Credit Union Administration, 1775 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)www.occ.treas.gov

The OCC charters and supervises national banks. If the word “national” appears in the name of a bank, or the initials “N.A.” follow its name, the OCC oversees its operations.

Call toll-free: 1-800-613-6743 (business days 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. CST); fax: 713-336-4301; or write: Customer Assistance Group, 1301 McKinney Street, Suite 3710, Houston, TX 77010.

OCC publications:

Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) www.ots.treas.gov

The OTS is the primary regulator of all federal, and many state-chartered, thrift institutions, including savings banks and savings and loan institutions.

Call: 202-906-6000; or write: Office of Thrift Supervision, 1700 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20552.

Bankruptcy Fraud

U. S. Trustee (UST) www.usdoj.gov/ust

If you believe someone has filed for bankruptcy in your name, write to the U.S. Trustee in the region where the bankruptcy was filed. A list of the U.S. Trustee Programs’ Regional Offices is available on the UST website, or check the Blue Pages of your phone book under U.S. Government Bankruptcy Administration.

In your letter, describe the situation and provide proof of your identity. The U.S. Trustee will make a criminal referral to law enforcement authorities if you provide appropriate documentation to substantiate your claim. You also may want to file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney and/or the FBI in the city where the bankruptcy was filed. The U.S. Trustee does not provide legal representation, legal advice, or referrals to lawyers. That means you may need to hire an attorney to help convince the bankruptcy court that the filing is fraudulent. The U.S. Trustee does not provide consumers with copies of court documents. You can get them from the bankruptcy clerk’s office for a fee.

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