Preventing Identity Theft

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If you suspect that someone has used your name, Social Security number, or other personal information to get credit or a loan, the following information can help you.

How to Restore Your Good Name

Keep a record. Because recovering from identity theft can be a long and complicated process, it's important to keep a record of all 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 report. Get your credit report 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 report. Get the 3-in-1 Credit Report and see your credit history as reported by the three major nationwide credit reporting companies.

Contact the three Credit Reporting Agencies. 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.

Fraud Alerts. You may place an initial 90 day alert by calling any one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. You may place an extended 7 year alert by writing to one of the nationwide credit reporting companies and providing an Identity Theft Report as well as a day and evening telephone number. The requirements for an Identity Theft Report are listed on the FTC's website at www.ftc.com. The extended alert removes your name from pre-screened offers of credit for 5 years. You will receive a confirmation when an alert is added to your credit file.

Active Duty Alert. You may request an active duty alert, which will remain on your file for 12 months, by calling any one of the nationwide credit reporting companies. This alert removes your name from pre-screened offers of credit for 2 years. You will receive a confirmation when an alert is added to your credit file.

Sharing of Alerts. The nationwide credit reporting company that accepts your request for a Fraud or Active Duty alert will share your request with the other two nationwide credit reporting companies, which will add the alert to your credit file or request that you provide them additional information.

Freeze fraudulent accounts. Contact the appropriate creditors, banks, phone companies, and utility companies and have them freeze 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.

You may also need to contact one or more of the government bodies listed below, each of which will inform you of the necessary procedures.

Block the reporting of fraudulent accounts. If an account was opened fraudulently and was identified in a police report as being fraudulent, you can provide a copy of the police report and request that Equifax or the other two nationwide consumer reporting companies block the reporting of the fraudulent account in your credit file.

Place a Security Freeze on your credit file.
If you reside in select states you have the right to place a security freeze on your Equifax credit file. To determine the availability of a security freeze for your state and to determine the fees for placing and temporarily lifting a security freeze, please click here. A security freeze will prevent us from reporting your Equifax credit file to third parties, such as credit grantors and other companies and agencies, except those exempted by law or those for whom you contacted us and requested that we temporarily lift the security freeze.

A security freeze will require you to plan ahead for all your credit applications as you will need to contact us to request that we temporarily lift your freeze to allow us to report your Equifax credit file to the credit grantor you identify. Under the laws of most states that allow security freezes, it may take up to three business days to process your request to temporarily lift the security freeze. It may take longer if you have lost the security freeze confirmation number which we provided to you when you first requested the security freeze be placed on your credit file. You may not be able to request a temporary lift of a security freeze during non-business hours or on weekends. A security freeze may hinder your ability to immediately obtain credit to make major purchases. Accordingly, if you are credit active and apply for credit on a regular basis and have a security freeze on your Equifax credit file you need to be especially mindful of the need to plan ahead and contact us in advance to request a temporary lift of the security freeze on your Equifax credit file.

click here to learn more about placing a Security Freeze on your credit file.

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). You can order a copy of your 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 www.usdoj.gov/ust, 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.

Important Contact Information

There are a number of helpful services to help you respond if you have been a victim of identity theft. Below is a list of resources that we have compiled.

Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Hotline
877/ID-THEFT

Equifax fraud division
800-525-6285
P.O. Box 740250
Atlanta, GA 30374

Experian fraud division
888-397-3742
P.O. Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013

Trans Union fraud division
800-680-7289
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634

To Read More about Identity Theft and Credit Fraud

If you want to know more about identity theft and credit fraud, the following nonprofit Web sites are excellent sources of information and additional contact information.

US Government's Web site for identity theft
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/

US Government: Identity theft clearinghouse
http://www.consumer.gov/sentinel/idtchart.htm

FTC consumer complaint form
https://rn.ftc.gov/dod/widtpubl$.startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU03

US Department of Justice:
http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/fraud/idtheft.html

Social Security Administration/Office of the Inspector General fraud Web site
http://www.ssa.gov/oig/hotline/index.htm

US Secret Service: What to do if you're a victim of identity theft
http://www.treas.gov/usss/index.htm?faq.htm&1

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