11 Steps To Take Immediately If Your Identity Has Been Stolen

June 13, 2024


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    Do You Think Your Identity Has Been Stolen? Act Fast!

    Identity theft has become the fastest growing type of white collar crime in America, with more than 5.4 million fraud and identity theft reports filed in 2023 alone [*].

    But what makes identity theft so dangerous is that 70% of identity theft victims are targeted more than once [*].

    It’s important to act swiftly as soon as you see any clear or potential warning signs of identity theft — even if scammers haven’t used your personal information yet. If you can detect the crime early enough, you can stop it before becoming a repeat victim.

    Before You Start: Use This System To Track Your Recovery

    Depending on the type of identity theft you’ve experienced, you could end up in contact with multiple financial institutions, credit reporting agencies, fraud departments, and law enforcement agencies — each with its own deadlines and unique processes. 

    To reduce stress and avoid missing critical deadlines, you need to keep a log of all of the people you contact, make copies of all letters and records, and track your expenses for insurance or restitution purposes. 

    Here are some guidelines to help you stay organized and on track:

    Tracking Method
    Telephone Calls
    • Record the dates, times, and lengths of all phone calls.
    • Write out your questions beforehand to ensure that you don't miss anything.
    • Document the names and departments of the people you speak with and the answers you receive.
    • Ask for and record confirmation and reference numbers.
    • Send letters via certified mail for proof of mailing and delivery.
    • Use sample letters provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and keep copies.
    • Record the time and costs involved in writing and sending letters.
    • Make copies of all documents you send and receive, including your driver's license, Social Security number (SSN), and police reports.
    • Only send out copies, and always keep the originals.
    • Print out and make copies of any evidence or useful records, such as transaction records, credit reports, and credit account and bank statements.
    • Make a schedule/calendar to avoid missing important dates.
    • Keep a timeline of events as they happen so that you can stay organized.
    • Follow up if any dates pass without the promised activity.
    💪 Don’t get overwhelmed dealing with identity theft. Identity Guard’s Ultra Plan includes access to Expert Fraud Remediation specialists who can walk you through every step of the recovery process. Try Identity Guard risk free with a 60-day money-back guarantee.

    11 Steps To Take After Your Identity Has Been Stolen

    With a system in place, your next steps are to minimize damage, secure your identity, and report and dispute any fraud. 

    1. Place an initial fraud alert, or freeze your credit

    Adding an alert or a security freeze to your credit file can prevent identity thieves from accessing your credit and damaging your credit score.

    Each of the three major credit bureaus offers an initial (or temporary) fraud alert — a free one-year notice on your credit file that encourages lenders to contact you before making changes. You only need to contact one of the three bureaus to add an alert, and it will inform the other two within 24 hours. 

    You can take a bolder step by initiating a credit freeze — a free tool that restricts all access to your credit. You need to place a freeze with each of the major bureaus individually. Security freezes stay on your credit file until lifted in most states, but they may expire after seven years in some states [*]. 

    Credit Bureau
    Initial Fraud Alert
    Security Freeze
    Place an alert online

    Call: 1-888-Equifax (1-888-378-4329)
    Place a freeze online

    Call: 1-888-298-0045
    Place an alert online

    Call: 1-888-Experian (1-888-397-3742)
    Place a freeze online

    Call: 1-888-Experian (888-397-3742)
    Place an alert online

    Call: 1-800-663-9980
    Place a freeze online

    Call: 1-800-916-8800

    Note: You can only apply for either a fraud alert or a credit freeze — not both. While a credit freeze requires more effort, it provides much more security against fraud.

    2. Review your credit reports and bank statements for signs of fraud

    Whether you're trying to confirm that your identity was stolen or you’re collecting evidence, your credit report and bank statements are the best places to look. Your credit report displays credit accounts, credit inquiries, and various public records in your name, while your bank statements document account transactions.

    • Order a free copy of your credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com. Look for unfamiliar account numbers, unexpected balances and hard inquiries, or incorrect contact information. 
    • Check for similar activity on your bank statements — such as changes to your personal information or fraudulent charges. Don't overlook small transactions, as scammers may use these to avoid detection as they test their access to your accounts. 

    📚 Related: How To Check If Someone Opened an Account In Your Name

    3. File an identity theft report with the FTC and your local police

    While the FTC doesn't investigate identity theft directly, it serves as a hub for investigations. You can use (and may need) an FTC identity theft report to start an investigation with the credit bureaus, banks, and your local law enforcement agency.  

    • File an identity theft report by visiting IdentityTheft.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). You’ll receive a personalized recovery plan along with an identity theft affidavit. 
    • Take your FTC report to your local police department and file a police report. Many banks and other institutions require a police report to close accounts or reimburse fraudulent transactions.

    Note: While some banks require police reports, many police departments only investigate identity theft if you have intimate details about the crime or criminal. 

    4. Cancel compromised bank accounts and cards

    Stop identity thieves from using your bank accounts and credit cards by closing accounts as soon as you can. Contact your bank, and ask them to cancel the compromised accounts and open new ones, along with new credit cards and debit cards in your name.

    Credit Card Company
    Report Lost or Stolen Card
    Call: 1-800-847-2911

    Report online
    Call: 1-800-627-8372
    Call: 1-800-432-3117
    Capital One
    Call: 1-800-655-2265
    Call: 1-800-950-5114
    Bank of America
    Call: 1-800-732-9194

    Report online
    Call: 1-800-347-2683
    American Express
    Call: 1-800-528-4800

    Report online

    📚 Related: How To Protect Yourself Against Credit Card Fraud

    5. Report fraudulent withdrawals, transfers, and accounts to your bank

    Your ability to dispute fraudulent withdrawals and charges depends on the type of fraud and how quickly you report it. For example, under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, you’re only liable for up to $50 in fraudulent transactions — as long as you notify the bank within two days of identifying the fraud [*]. 

    As soon as you recognize unfamiliar or fraudulent transactions, contact your financial institution’s fraud department. 

    How long will it take? Banks typically have 10 days to investigate the fraud and correct the issue. Depending on the situation, it can take up 90 days to resolve the problem, but the bank must provide you with a temporary credit in meantime [*].

    6. Dispute credit report errors and fraudulent accounts and charges

    The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to dispute any incorrect or fraudulent activity on your credit report — such as incorrect personal records, unauthorized new accounts, or fraudulent transactions [*]. Send disputes to each specific credit agency that shows the activity.

    Disputes should include your contact information, a credit report highlighting the errors in question, a detailed explanation of the issue, and copies of any evidence you have. In most cases, the credit reporting agency will resolve the issue within 30 days [*].

    Credit Bureau
    Methods for disputing errors
    Dispute online

    Call: 1-866-349-5191

    Mail this form to:

    Equifax Information Services LLC

    P.O. Box 740256

    Atlanta, GA 30374
    Dispute online

    Call: 1-866-200-6020

    Mail this form to:


    P.O. Box 4500

    Allen, TX 75013
    Dispute online

    Call: 1-800-916-8800

    Mail this form to:

    TransUnion Consumer Solutions

    P.O. Box 2000

    Chester, PA 19016-2000

    Note: If you choose to phone in a dispute, you should follow up in writing for your own records. 

    7. Contact any company where your identity was used fraudulently

    In some cases, you can resolve fraudulent credit report activity by dealing with the information furnishers directly. These may include lenders, credit card issuers, retailers, telecommunications companies, and debt collectors that appear on your credit report. 

    • Call each company and inform them that you are a victim of identity theft and would like to dispute the account.
    • Follow up with a formal dispute letter, including the account number in dispute and a detailed explanation of dates, events, and evidence. You should also include copies of your FTC and police reports.

    Information furnishers typically have 30 days to respond to a formal dispute [*]. 

    8. Report and replace lost or stolen ID cards

    If your identity theft was the result of lost or stolen identification cards, you may need to report the theft to the agency or organization that governs that document. 

    Here's a brief look at the reporting and replacement process for some of the main identification cards.

    Lost or Stolen Document
    Reporting and Replacement Options
    Driver's License or State ID Card
    Request a new card with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
    Social Security Card
    Request a new card with the Social Security Administration (SSA) online.

    Call: 1-800-772-1213
    Report the stolen document to the Department of State online.

    Visit a designated passport facility.

    Call: 1-877-487-2778

    Mail this form to:

    U.S. Department of State


    44132 Mercure Cir

    P.O. Box 1227

    Sterling, VA 20166-1227
    Birth Certificate
    Request a new document from your birth state's vital records office.
    Medicare Card
    Request a new card through your online Medicare account.

    Call: 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227)
    Medicaid Card
    Request a new card from your state's Medicaid office.

    📚 Related: What Can Someone Do With Your Passport Number?

    9. Check with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

    Identity thieves can use your SSN and other personal information to file fraudulent tax returns and claim your refunds. If the IRS suspects that someone has used your identity fraudulently, they will contact you and ask you to verify your identity and the claim in question [*]. 

    If you don't receive anything from the IRS but suspect you might be a victim of tax identity theft, you can submit an Identity Theft Affidavit online. You can also mail this form to the following address:

    Department of the Treasury

    Internal Revenue Service

    Fresno, CA 93888-0025

    Once the IRS resolves the issue, they will send you a notice with a unique six-digit Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) [*]. The IRS generally resolves investigations within 120 days [*]. 

    10. Check for leaked passwords, and secure your online accounts

    Leaked online account passwords represent one of the fastest-growing causes of identity theft. According to the FTC, identity theft from email and social media grew by 25% between 2022 and 2023 [*]. 

    • Use Identity Guard’s free Dark Web scanner to check for any leaked passwords associated with your email account. Update any compromised account with a strong password. 
    • Consider using a password manager to create and store your passwords for you; and enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on any account that will allow it. 

    📚 Related: Do Scammers Have Your Email Address? Do This Now!

    11. Run an antivirus program on each of your devices

    If your identity was stolen as a result of malware on one or more of your devices, you could still be at risk — even after you resolve your existing issue. To rid your devices of any malware or viruses, you need to run a reliable antivirus program, which will identify, isolate, and remove the problems.

    Note: Only download antivirus software from a reputable provider — as some hackers disguise malware as free antivirus or “device cleanup” tools.

    🏆 Protect yourself with Identity Guard’s all-in-one solution. Identity Guard combines award-winning credit and identity theft protection with online safety tools, 24/7 support, and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance. Try Identity Guard risk free with a 60-day money-back guarantee.

    Identity Thieves Rarely Strike Just Once — Make Sure You’re Protected

    More than half of all identity theft victims report being repeat targets or never fully resolving the issue [*]. 

    While your risk level goes up once your identity has been compromised, there are steps you can take to help prevent identity theft in the future.

    At a minimum, be sure to limit the information you share online, use strong and unique passwords for every account, learn to spot the warning signs of phishing scams, and regularly scan the Dark Web to see if your information has been exposed in recent data breaches. 

    And for peace of mind, consider signing up for Identity Guard’s award-winning, all-in-one platform. With Identity Guard, you get some of the most extensive identity, credit, and online monitoring, 24/7 U.S.-based support, and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance to cover eligible losses and expenses during the identity restoration process. 

    Protect yourself from identity theft. Try Identity Guard risk free today.

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    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers