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Taking Charge: What To Do if Your Identity Is Stolen

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2012
68 pages
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Nation's consumer-protection agency, prepared this guide to assist victims of identity theft in repairing the damage inflicted by this crime and in reducing the risk of being victimized by it.
Identity theft occurs when someone steals another individual's personal information and then uses it without the individual's permission. The damage to the victim is not only the loss of money, but also time-consuming and frustrating efforts to repair the damage to personal finances, credit history, and reputation. The guidance is categorized as "immediate steps" and "next steps." The "immediate steps" are to place an initial fraud alert, order credit reports, and create an identity theft report. The guide provides detailed information on how these steps can be accomplished and their effects in limiting the harm caused by identity theft. "Next steps" after the "immediate steps" are to review your credit reports; dispute errors with credit reporting companies; report errors to the credit reporting companies and any businesses that may have provided products or services to the thief; get copies of documents the thief used, and address the particular fraud perpetrated by the thief. This involves attention to ATM and debit cards, checking accounts, credit cards, bankruptcy filed in the victim's name, and investment. Other issues that must be checked are your standing with debt collectors and government-issued identification. Additional matters to be considered are student loans, the misuse of a Social Security number, income taxes, medical identity theft, child identity theft, and criminal violations. Suggestions are offered for mitigating and reducing one's risk for identity theft and its consequences. Sample letters and forms are provided.