What do I do if I’ve been a victim of identity theft?
By contacting the nationwide credit reporting companies, you can place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit report. You can also request that they block or remove fraudulent debts.
You can contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies, Equifax , Experian , and TransUnion :
Equifax Consumer Fraud Division,
PO Box 740256,
Atlanta, GA 30374
TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department,
P.O. Box 2000,
Chester, PA 19016
A fraud alert requires creditors, who check your credit report, to take steps to verify your identity before opening a new account, issuing an additional card, or increasing the credit limit on an existing account based on a consumer's request. When you place a fraud alert on your credit report at one of the nationwide credit reporting companies, it must notify the others.
There are two main types of fraud alerts: initial fraud alerts and extended alerts. Servicemembers also have the option of an active duty alert.
Initial fraud alerts
You can place an initial fraud alert on your credit report if you believe you are, or are about to become, a victim of fraud or identity theft. Credit reporting companies will keep that alert on your file for one year. After one year, the initial fraud alert will expire and be removed. You have the option to place another fraud alert at that time.
When you place an initial fraud alert, creditors must take reasonable steps to make sure the person making a new credit request in your name is actually you before granting that request. If you provide a telephone number, the lender must call you or take reasonable steps to verify whether you are the person making the credit request before granting the credit.
When you place an initial fraud alert on your file, you're entitled to order one free copy of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies. These free reports do not count as your free annual report from each credit reporting company.
You can also place an extended alert on your credit report after your identity has been stolen and you file an identity theft report.
When you place an extended fraud alert on your file, you're entitled to order two free copies of your credit report from each nationwide credit reporting company over a 12 month period.
An extended alert is good for seven years. It requires that the creditor contact you in person or through the telephone number or other contact method you designate to verify whether you are the person making the credit request before extending new credit.
Under federal law, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit record for free at the three nationwide credit reporting companies – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. A security freeze, also called a credit freeze, stops new creditors from accessing your credit file and others from opening accounts in your name, until you lift the freeze. The federal law requiring free security freezes does not apply to someone who requests your credit report for employment, tenant-screening, or insurance purposes.
Unlike fraud alerts, if you place a security freeze with one credit reporting company, they will not notify the other credit reporting companies. You must contact each credit reporting company individually if you would like to place a security freeze with all three nationwide credit reporting companies.
Because most businesses will not open credit accounts without checking your credit report, a freeze can stop identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name. Be mindful that a freeze doesn't prevent identity thieves from taking over existing accounts.
Special help for servicemembers
Members of the military – such as members of the Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard – have an additional option available to them: active duty alerts, which give service members protection while they are on active duty and assigned to service away from their usual duty station. These alerts last for 12 months.
When you place an active duty alert on your credit report, creditors must take reasonable steps to make sure the person making the request is actually you before opening an account, issuing an additional credit card on an existing account, or increasing the credit limit on your existing account. Your name will also be removed for two years from the nationwide credit reporting companies' pre-screen marketing lists for credit offers and insurance.
Blocking or removing fraudulent information from your consumer report
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you can also get credit reporting companies to remove fraudulent information and debts from your credit report, which is called blocking. To do this, you must send the credit reporting companies:
- An identity theft report, which can be done through IdentityTheft.gov
- Proof of your identity
- A letter identifying the fraudulent debts and information on your credit report
Through IdentityTheft.gov , you can also get a sample letter to send to the credit reporting companies. Remember that you can use identity theft reports only for debts that are the result of identity theft. Credit reporting companies may decline to block or rescind a block if you make a material misrepresentation of fact about being a victim of identity theft or if you got goods, services or money as a result of the blocked transaction.
Within four business days after receiving your request, the credit reporting company must block that information from your credit report. In addition, they must tell the companies that provided the information that someone stole your identity. Once notified, creditors can’t turn identity theft-related debts over to debt collectors.
If you need to dispute a debt that is not the result of identity theft, read “How do I dispute an error on my credit report?”
If you have a problem with credit reporting, you can submit a complaint to the CFPB.