ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen To Your Good Name

ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen To Your Good Name
Table of Contents
Introduction ................................................................................. 1
How Identity Theft Occurs ............................................................ 3
Minimize Your Risk ...................................................................... 5
What You Can Do Today ......................................................... 5
Maintaining Vigilance .............................................................. 5
The Doors and Windows Are Locked, but . . . ............................ 7
Choosing to Share Personal Information – or Not .......................... 9
Credit Bureaus ......................................................................... 9
Department of Motor Vehicles ................................................ 10
Direct Marketers .................................................................... 10
If You’re a Victim ....................................................................... 11
Your First Four Steps .............................................................. 11
Credit Accounts ..................................................................... 12
ATM Cards ............................................................................ 12
Checks .................................................................................. 12
Chart Your Course of Action ....................................................... 14
Resolving Credit Problems .......................................................... 15
Credit Reports ....................................................................... 15
Credit Cards ......................................................................... 17
Debt Collectors ...................................................................... 18
ATM Cards, Debit Cards and Electronic Fund Transfers ............ 19
Specific Problems ....................................................................... 21
Bank Fraud ........................................................................... 21
Bankruptcy Fraud ................................................................... 21
Criminal Violations ................................................................ 22
Fake Driver’s License ............................................................. 22
Investment Fraud ................................................................... 22
Mail Theft .............................................................................. 23
Passport Fraud ....................................................................... 23
Phone Fraud .......................................................................... 23
Social Security Number Theft and Misuse ................................ 23
Tax Fraud .............................................................................. 24
It’s the Law ................................................................................ 25
Federal Law........................................................................... 25
State Law .............................................................................. 25
Appendix .................................................................................. 27
Instructions for Completing the ID Theft Affidavit ...................... 27
ID Theft Affidavit .................................................................... 29
My purse was stolen in December 1990. In February 1991,
I started getting notices of bounced checks. About a year
later, I received information that someone using my identity
had defaulted on a number of lease agreements and
bought a car. In 1997, I learned that someone had been
working under my Social Security number for a number of
years. A man had been arrested and used my SSN on his
arrest sheet. There’s a hit in the FBI computers for my SSN
with a different name and gender. I can’t get credit because
of this situation. I was denied a mortgage loan, employment, credit cards, and medical care for my children. I’ve
even had auto insurance denied, medical insurance and
tuition assistance denied.
From a consumer complaint to the FTC, January 2, 2001
n the course of a busy day,
you may write a check at
the grocery store, charge tickets to a ball game, rent a car, mail
your tax returns, call home on
your cell phone, order
new checks or apply
for a credit card.
Chances are
you don’t
give these
transactions a second thought.
But someone
else may.
The 1990’s
spawned a new
variety of crooks
called identity
thieves. Their stock in trade
is your everyday transaction. Each transaction requires you to share personal information:
your bank and
credit card account numbers;
your income;
your Social Se-
curity number (SSN); or your
name, address and phone numbers. An identity thief co-opts
some piece of your personal infor-
mation and appropriates it without
your knowledge to commit fraud
or theft. An all-too-common example is when an identity thief uses
your personal information
to open a credit card account in your name.
Identity theft is a
serious crime.
People whose
identities have
been stolen can
spend months or
years – and thousands of dollars –
cleaning up the
mess the
thieves have
made of their
good name and
credit record. In
the meantime,
victims may lose job
opportunities, be
refused loans for
education, housing,
cars, or even be
arrested for crimes
they didn’t commit.
Humiliation, anger
and frustration are
common feelings victims experience as they navigate the arduous process of reclaiming their
Perhaps you’ve received your
first call from a collections agent
demanding payment on a loan
you never took out – for a car
you never bought. Maybe you’ve
already spent a significant
amount of time and money
calling financial institutions,
canceling accounts, struggling to
regain your good name and
credit. Or maybe your wallet’s
been stolen, or you’ve just heard
about identity theft for the first
time on the nightly news, and
you’d like to know more about
protecting yourself from this
devastating crime. This booklet
is for you.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), working with other
government agencies and organizations, has produced this
booklet to help you guard against
and recover from identity theft.
Can you completely prevent
identity theft from occurring?
Probably not, especially if
someone is determined to commit the crime. But you can
minimize your risk by managing
your personal information wisely
and cautiously.
If you’ve been a victim of
identity theft, call the FTC’s
Identity Theft Hotline toll-free at
1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338).
Counselors will take your com-
plaint and advise you on how to
deal with the credit-related
problems that could result. In
addition, the FTC, in conjunction
with banks, credit grantors and
consumer advocates, has developed the ID Theft Affidavit to
help victims of ID theft restore
their good names. The ID Theft
Affidavit, a form that can be
used to report information to
many organizations, simplifies
the process of disputing charges
with companies where a new
account was opened in your
name. For a copy of the ID Theft
Affidavit, see page 29 or visit
the ID Theft Website at
The Hotline and Website
give you one place to report the
theft to the federal government
and receive helpful information.
The FTC puts your information
into a secure consumer fraud
database where it can be used to
help other law enforcement
agencies and private entities in
their investigations and victim
How Identity Theft Occurs
My wallet was stolen in December 1998. There’s been no end to
the problems I’ve faced since then. The thieves used my identity to
write checks, use a debit card, open a bank account with a line of
credit, open credit accounts with several stores, obtain cell phones
and run up huge bills, print fraudulent checks on a personal computer bearing my name, and more. I’ve spent the last two years
trying to repair my credit report (a very frustrating process) and
have suffered the ill effects of having a marred credit history. I’ve
recently been denied a student loan because of inaccurate
information on my credit report.
From a consumer complaint to the FTC, February 22, 2001
espite your best efforts to
manage the flow of your
personal information or to
keep it to yourself, skilled identity
thieves may use a
variety of methods
– low- and hitech – to gain
access to your
data. Here are
some of the ways
imposters can get
your personal
information and
take over your
How identity thieves get your
personal information:
■ They
steal wallets and purses containing
your identification and credit and bank
■ They steal your mail, including your bank
and credit card statements, pre-approved
credit offers, new checks, and tax information.
■ They complete a “change of address form”
to divert your mail to another location.
■ They rummage through your trash, or the
trash of businesses, for personal data in a
practice known as “dumpster diving.”
■ They fraudulently obtain your credit report
by posing as a landlord, employer
or someone else who may have a legitimate
need for, and legal right to, the information.
■ They find personal information in your
■ They use personal information you share on
the Internet.
■ They scam you, often through email, by
posing as legitimate companies or government agencies you do business with.
■ They get your information from the workplace in a practice known as “business
record theft” by: stealing files out of offices
where you’re a customer, employee, patient
or student; bribing an employee who has
access to your files; or “hacking” into electronic files.
How identity thieves use your
personal information:
■ They
call your credit card issuer and,
pretending to be you, ask to change the
mailing address on your credit card
account. The imposter then runs up
charges on your account. Because your
bills are being sent to the new address, it
may take some time before you realize
there’s a problem.
■ They open a new credit card account,
using your name, date of birth and SSN.
When they use the credit card and don’t
pay the bills, the delinquent account is
reported on your credit report.
■ They establish phone or wireless service in
your name.
■ They open a bank account in your name
and write bad checks on that account.
■ They file for bankruptcy under your name
to avoid paying debts they’ve incurred
under your name, or to avoid eviction.
■ They counterfeit checks or debit cards,
and drain your bank account.
■ They buy cars by taking out auto loans in
your name.
■ They give your name to the police during
an arrest. If they’re released from police
custody, but don’t show up for their court
date, an arrest warrant is issued in your
Minimize Your Risk
I’m tired of the hours I’ve spent on the phone and all the
faxing I’ve had to do. When will it be over?
From a consumer complaint to the FTC, March 13, 2001
Tomorrow is Sunday so we won’t get any notices, but I’m
not looking forward to Monday’s mail.
From a consumer complaint to the FTC, November 13, 2001
hile you probably
can’t prevent identity
theft entirely, you can
minimize your risk. By managing
your personal information wisely,
cautiously and with an awareness
of the issue, you can help guard
against identity theft.
What You Can Do Today
• Order a copy of your credit
report from each of the three
major credit bureaus. Your
credit report contains information
on where you work and live, the
credit accounts that have been
opened in your name, how you
pay your bills and whether
you’ve been sued, arrested or
filed for bankruptcy. Make sure
it’s accurate and includes only
those activities you’ve authorized. By law, credit bureaus can
charge you no more than $9 for a
copy of your credit report. See
“Credit Reports” on page 15 for
details about removing fraudulent and inaccurate information
from your credit report.
• Place passwords on your
credit card, bank and phone
accounts. Avoid using easily
available information like your
mother’s maiden name, your
birth date, the last four digits of
your SSN or your phone number,
Equifax – www
To order your report, call: 800-685-1111
To report fraud, call: 800-525-6285/
TDD 800-255-0056 and write:
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian – www
To order your report, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
To report fraud, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)/
TDD 800-972-0322 and write:
P.O. Box 9532, Allen TX 75013
TransUnion – www
To order your report, call: 800-888-4213
To report fraud, call: 800-680-7289/
TDD 877-553-7803; fax: 714-447-6034; email:
[email protected] or write: Fraud Victim Assistance
Department, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
or a series of consecutive numbers. When opening new accounts, you may find that many
businesses still have a line on
their applications for your
mother’s maiden name. Use a
password instead.
• Ask about information security procedures in your workplace. Find out who has access to
your personal information and
verify that records are kept in a
secure location. Ask about the
disposal procedures for those
records as well.
• Secure personal information
in your home, especially if you
have roommates, employ outside
help or are having service work
done in your home.
Maintaining Vigilance
• Order a copy of your credit
report from each of the three
major credit bureaus once a year.
By checking your report on a
regular basis you can catch
mistakes and fraud before they
wreak havoc on your personal
finances. Don’t underestimate the
importance of this step. One of the
most common ways that consumers find out that they’re victims of
identity theft is when they try to
make a major purchase, like a
house or a car. The deal can be
lost or delayed while the credit
report mess is straightened out.
Knowing what’s in your credit
report allows you to fix problems
before they jeopardize a major
financial transaction.
• Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the
mail or over the Internet unless
you’ve initiated the contact or are
sure you know who you’re
dealing with. Identity thieves may
pose as representatives of banks,
Internet service providers (ISPs)
and even government agencies to
get you to reveal your SSN,
mother’s maiden name, account
numbers and other identifying
information. Before you share any
personal information, confirm that
you are dealing with a legitimate
organization. You can check the
organization’s website as many
companies post scam alerts when
their name is used improperly, or
you can call customer service
using the number listed on your
account statement or in the telephone book.
• Guard your mail and trash from
Deposit outgoing mail in post
office collection boxes or at your
local post office, rather than in an
unsecured mailbox. Promptly
Your employer and financial institution will likely
need your SSN for wage and tax reporting purposes.
Other businesses may ask you for your SSN to do a
credit check, like when you apply for a loan, rent an
apartment, or sign up for utilities. Sometimes, however, they simply want your SSN for general record
keeping. You don’t have to give a business your SSN
just because they ask for it. If someone asks for your
SSN, ask the following questions:
Why do you need my SSN?
How will my SSN be used?
What law requires me to give you my SSN?
What will happen if I don’t give you my SSN?
Sometimes a business may not provide you with the
service or benefit you’re seeking if you don’t provide
your SSN. Getting answers to these questions will
help you decide whether you want to share your SSN
with the business. Remember – the decision is yours.
remove mail from your mailbox.
If you’re planning to be away
from home and can’t pick up
your mail, call the U.S. Postal
Service at 1-800-275-8777 to
request a vacation hold. The
Postal Service will hold your
mail at your local post office
until you can pick it up or are
home to receive it.
To thwart an identity thief who
may pick through your trash or
recycling bins to capture your
personal information, tear or
shred your charge receipts,
copies of credit applications,
insurance forms, physician
statements, checks and bank
statements, expired charge cards
that you’re discarding, and
credit offers you get in the mail.
• Before revealing any personally
identifying information (for
example, on an application), find
out how it will be used and
secured, and whether it will be
shared with others. Ask if you
have a choice about the use of
your information. Can you choose
to have it kept confidential?
• Don’t carry your SSN card;
leave it in a secure place.
• Give your SSN only when
absolutely necessary. Ask to use
other types of identifiers when
possible. If your state uses your
SSN as your driver’s license
number, ask to substitute another
• Carry only the identification
information and the number of
goldmine to an identity thief. The
following tips can help you keep
your computer and your personal
information safe.
• Update your virus protection
software regularly, or when a new
virus alert is announced. Computer viruses can have a variety
of damaging effects, including
introducing program code that
causes your computer to send out
files or other stored information.
Be on the alert for security
repairs and patches that you can
download from your operating
system’s website.
• Do not download files sent to
you by strangers or click on
hyperlinks from people you don’t
know. Opening a file could
expose your system to a computer virus or a program that
could hijack your modem.
credit and debit cards that you’ll
actually need.
• Pay attention to your billing
cycles. Follow up with creditors
if your bills don’t arrive on time.
A missing credit card bill could
mean an identity thief has taken
over your account and changed
your billing address to cover his
• Be wary of promotional scams.
Identity thieves may use phony
offers to get you to give them
your personal information.
• Keep your purse or wallet in a
safe place at work.
The Doors and Windows
Are Locked, but . . .
You may be careful about
locking your doors and windows,
and keeping your personal papers
in a secure place. But, depending
on what you use your personal
computer for, an identity thief
may not need to set foot in your
house to steal your personal
information. SSNs, financial
records, tax returns, birth dates,
and bank account numbers may
be stored in your computer – a
• Use a firewall program, especially if you use a high-speed
Internet connection like cable,
DSL or T-1, which leaves your
computer connected to the
Internet 24 hours a day. The
firewall program will allow you
to stop uninvited guests from
accessing your computer. Without
it, hackers can take over your
computer and access your personal information stored on it or
use it to commit other crimes.
• Use a secure browser – software that encrypts or scrambles
information you send over the
Internet – to guard the security of
your online transactions. Be sure
your browser has the most up-todate encryption capabilities by
using the latest
version available
from the manufacturer. You
also can download some
browsers for
free over the
Internet. When
information, look
for the “lock”
icon on the
browser’s status
bar to be sure
your information
is secure during
• Try not to store
financial information on your
laptop unless absolutely necessary. If you do, use a strong
password – a combination of
letters (upper and lowers case),
numbers and symbols. Don’t use
an automatic log-in feature which
saves your user name and
password so you don’t have to
enter them each time you log-in
or enter a site. And always log
off when you’re finished. That
way, if your laptop gets stolen,
it’s harder for the thief to access
your personal information.
• Before you dispose of a computer, delete personal information. Deleting files using the
keyboard or mouse commands
may not be enough because the
files may stay on the computer’s
hard drive, where they may be
easily retrieved. Use a “wipe”
utility program to overwrite the
entire hard drive. It makes the
files unrecoverable. For more
information, see Clearing
Information From Your
Computer’s Hard Drive
hq/harddrive.pdf) from the
National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA).
• Look for website privacy
policies. They answer questions
about maintaining accuracy,
access, security, and control of
personal information collected by
the site, as well as how information will be used, and whether it
will be provided to third parties.
If you don’t see a privacy policy,
consider surfing elsewhere.
For more information, see
Site-Seeing on the Internet: A
Traveler’s Guide to Cyberspace
from the FTC at
Choosing to Share Your
Personal Information – or Not
In November 2000, I found out that someone used my information
to obtain a cell phone. Since then, I’ve been living a nightmare. My
credit report is a mess. It’s a full-time job to investigate and correct
the information.
From a consumer complaint to the FTC, April 3, 2001
ur economy generates an
enormous amount of
data. Most users of that
information are from honest
businesses – getting and giving
legitimate information. Despite
the benefits of the information
age, some consumers may want
to limit the amount of personal
information they share. And they
can: More organizations are
offering people choices about
how their personal information is
used. For example, many feature
an “opt-out” choice that limits the
information shared with others or
used for promotional purposes.
When you “opt-out,” you may cut
down on the number of unsolicited telemarketing calls, promotional mail and spam emails that
you receive. Learn more about
the options you have for protecting your personal information by
contacting the following organizations.
To opt out of receiving prescreened credit card offers, call:
1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-5678688). The three major credit
bureaus use the same toll-free
number to let consumers choose
to not receive pre-screened credit
Marketing Lists
In addition, you can notify the
three major credit bureaus that
you do not want personal information about you shared for
Credit Bureaus
Pre-Screened Credit Offers
If you receive pre-screened credit
card offers in the mail (namely,
those based upon your credit
data), but don’t tear them up after
you decide you don’t want to
accept the offer, identity thieves
could retrieve the offers for their
own use without your knowledge.
promotional purposes. To ask the
three major credit bureaus not to
share your personal information,
write to:
Equifax, Inc.
PO Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123
Consumer Opt-Out
701 Experian Parkway
Allen, TX 75013
Marketing List Opt Out
PO Box 97328
Jackson, MS 39288-7328
Department of Motor
The Drivers Privacy Protection
Act forbids states from distributing personal information to direct
marketers. It does allow for the
sharing of personal information
with law enforcement officials,
courts, government agencies,
private investigators, insurance
underwriters and similar businesses. Check with your state
DMV to learn more, or visit
Direct Marketers
The federal government has
created the National Do Not Call
Registry – the free, easy way to
reduce the telemarketing calls
you get at home. To register, or to
get information, visit, or call
1-888-382-1222 from the phone
you want to register. You will
receive fewer telemarketing calls
within three months of registering your number. It will stay in
the registry for five years or until
it is disconnected or you take it
off the registry. After five years,
you will be able to renew your
The Direct Marketing
Association’s (DMA) Mail
Preference Service lets you “optout” of receiving direct mail
marketing from many national
companies for five years. When
you register with this service,
your name will be put on a
“delete” file and made available
to direct-mail marketers. However, your registration will not
stop mailings from organizations
that are not registered with the
DMA’s Mail Preference Service.
To register with DMA, send
your letter to:
Direct Marketing Association
Mail Preference Service
PO Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512
Or register online at
The DMA also has an EMail
Preference Service to help you
reduce unsolicited commercial
emails. To “opt-out” of receiving
unsolicited commercial email,
use DMA’s online form at
offemaillist.html. Your online
request will be effective for one
If You’re a Victim
ometimes an identity thief
can strike even if you’ve
been very careful about
keeping your personal information to yourself. If you suspect
that your personal information
has been hijacked and misappropriated to commit fraud or theft,
take action immediately, and
keep a record of your conversations and correspondence. You
may want to use the form, “Chart
Your Course of Action” on page
14. Exactly which steps you
should take to protect yourself
depends on your circumstances
and how your identity has been
misused. However, four basic
actions are appropriate in almost
every case.
• Experian – To report fraud,
call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (3973742), and write: P.O. Box
9532, Allen, TX 75013
• TransUnion – To report fraud,
call: 1-800-680-7289, and
write: Fraud Victim Assistance
Division, P.O. Box 6790,
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
Once you receive your
reports, review them carefully.
Look for inquiries you didn’t
initiate, accounts you didn’t open,
and unexplained debts on your
true accounts. Where “inquiries”
appear from the company(ies)
that opened the fraudulent
account(s), request that these
“inquiries” be removed from your
report. (See “Credit Reports” for
more information.) You also
should check that information
such as your SSN, address(es),
name or initial, and employers are
correct. Inaccuracies in this
information also may be due to
typographical errors. Nevertheless, whether the inaccuracies are
Your First Four Steps
1. Place a fraud alert on your
credit reports and review your
credit reports.
Call the toll-free fraud
number of any one of the three
major credit bureaus to place a
fraud alert on your credit
report. This can help prevent an
identity thief from opening
additional accounts in your
name. As soon as the credit
bureau confirms your fraud
alert, the other two credit
bureaus will automatically be
notified to place fraud alerts on
your credit report, and all three
reports will be sent to you free
of charge.
• Equifax – To report fraud,
call: 1-800-525-6285, and
write: P.O. Box 740241,
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
due to fraud or error, you should
notify the credit bureau as soon as
possible by telephone and in
writing. You should continue to
check your reports periodically,
especially in the first year after
you’ve discovered the theft, to
make sure no new fraudulent
activity has occurred. The automated “one-call” fraud alert
process only works for the initial
placement of your fraud alert.
Orders for additional credit
reports or renewals of your fraud
alerts must be made separately at
each of the three major credit
company’s fraud dispute
• For your existing accounts, ask
the representative to send you
the company’s fraud dispute
Call SCAN (1-800-262-7771)
to find out if the identity thief has
been passing bad checks in your
• If your ATM card has been
lost, stolen or otherwise
compromised, cancel the card
as soon as you can. Get a new
card with a new PIN.
3. File a report with your
local police or the police in
the community where the
identity theft took place.
Keep a copy of the report.
You may need it to validate your
claims to creditors. If you can’t
get a copy, at least get the report
If your checks have been stolen
or misused, close the account
and ask your bank to notify the
appropriate check verification
2. Close any accounts that
service. While no federal law
have been tampered with or
limits your losses if someone
opened fraudulently.
steals your checks and forges
your signature, state laws may
Credit Accounts
protect you. Most states hold
Credit accounts include all
accounts with banks, credit card the bank responsible for losses
from a forged check, but they
companies and other lenders,
also require you to take
and phone companies, utilities,
reasonable care of your
ISPs, and other service
account. For example, you may
be held responsible for the
forgery if you fail to notify the
If you’re closing existing
accounts and opening new ones, bank in a timely way that a
use new Personal Identification check was lost or stolen.
Numbers (PINs) and passwords. Contact your state banking or
consumer protection agency for
more information.
If there are fraudulent charges
You also should contact these
or debits, ask the company
major check verification compaabout the following forms for
nies. Ask that retailers who use
disputing those transactions:
their databases not accept your
• For new unauthorized accounts, ask if the company
TeleCheck – 1-800-710-9898
accepts the ID Theft Affidavit
(available at or 927-0188
affidavit.pdf or see page 29). Certegy, Inc. – 1-800-437If they don’t, ask the represen- 5120
tative to send you the
International Check
Services – 1-800-631-9656
4. File a complaint with the
By sharing your identity theft
complaint with the FTC, you will
provide important information
that can help law enforcement
officials track down identity
thieves and stop them. The FTC
also can refer victim complaints
to other appropriate government
agencies and companies for
further action. The FTC enters
the information you provide into
our secure database.
To file a complaint or to learn
more about the FTC’s Privacy
Policy, visit
idtheft. If you don’t have access
to the Internet, you can call the
FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline: tollfree 1-877-IDTHEFT (4384338); TDD: 202-326-2502; or
write: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
NW, Washington, DC 20580.
Tips on Filing a Police Report
■ Provide
documentation. Furnish as much documentation as you can to prove your
case. Debt collection letters, credit reports, your notarized ID Theft Affidavit, and other
evidence of fraudulent activity can help the police file a complete report.
■ Be
persistent. Local authorities may tell you that they can’t take a report. Stress the
importance of a police report; many creditors require one to resolve your dispute. Also
remind them that under their voluntary “Police Report Initiative,” credit bureaus will
automatically block the fraudulent accounts and bad debts from appearing on your credit
report, but only if you can give them a copy of the police report. If you can’t get the local
police to take a report, try your county police. If that doesn’t work, try your state police.
If you’re told that identity theft is not a crime under your state law, ask to file a Miscellaneous Incident Report instead. See page 25 for a list of state laws.
■ Be a motivating force
force. Ask your police department to search the FTC’s Consumer
Sentinel database for other complaints in your community. You may not be the first or
only victim of this identity thief. If there is a pattern of cases, local authorities may give
your case more consideration.
That’s why it’s also important to file a complaint with the FTC. Law enforcement agencies use complaints filed with the FTC to aggregate cases, spot patterns, and track growth
in identity theft. This information can then be used to improve investigations and victim
Tips on Organizing Your Case
Accurate and complete records will greatly improve your chances of resolving your
identity theft case.
■ Follow
up in writing with all contacts you’ve made on the phone or in person. Use
certified mail, return receipt requested.
■ Keep
copies of all correspondence or forms you send.
■ Write down the name of anyone you talk to, what he or she told you, and the date the
conversation occurred. Use Chart Your Course of Action on page 14 to help you.
■ Keep
the originals of supporting documentation, 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. One of the most difficult and
annoying aspects of identity theft is that errors can reappear on your credit reports or
your information can be re-circulated. Should this happen, you’ll be glad you kept your
Address and
Phone Number
Federal Trade
Local Police
Law Enforcement Authorities — Report Identity Theft
Banks, Credit Card Issuers and Other Creditors
(Contact each creditor promptly to protect your legal rights.)
TransUnion 1-800-680-7289
Credit Bureaus — Report Fraud
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.
Chart Your Course of Action
Resolving Credit Problems
I applied for a loan in November 2000 and was told I had bad credit. I
requested a credit report in November 2000 and found all sorts of
crazy information on it. I’m single but was listed as married. When I
renewed my driver’s license by mail, I was surprised to find someone
else’s face on my license. This is a nightmare and requires a large
amount of my time.
From a consumer complaint to the FTC, October 5, 2001
hile resolving credit
problems resulting
from identity theft can
be time-consuming and frustrating, the good news is that there
are procedures under federal laws
for correcting credit report and
billing errors, and stopping debt
collectors from contacting you
about debts you don’t owe. Here
is a brief summary of your rights,
and what to do to clear up credit
problems that result from identity
Credit Reports
The Fair Credit Reporting Act
(FCRA) establishes procedures
for correcting mistakes on your
credit report and requires that
your report be made available
only for certain legitimate business needs.
Under the FCRA, both the
credit bureau and the organization
that provided the information to
the credit bureau (the “information provider”), such as a bank or
credit card company, are responsible for correcting inaccurate or
incomplete information in your
report. To protect your rights
under the law, contact both the
credit bureau and the information
provider. It’s very important to
follow the procedures outlined
below. Otherwise you won’t have
any legal recourse if you have a
Proving Y
’re a Victim, Not a Deadbeat
Unlike victims of other crimes, who generally are
treated with respect and sympathy, identity theft victims
often find themselves having to prove that they’re
victims, too – not deadbeats trying to get out of paying
bad debts. So how do you go about proving something
you didn’t do? Getting the right documents and getting
them to the right people is key.
The PPolice
olice Report: If you have a police report, send a
copy to Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. They will
block the information you’re disputing from your credit
reports. This may take up to 30 days. The credit bureaus have the right to remove the block, if they believe
it was wrongly placed. Because this initiative is voluntary in the vast majority of states, it’s important to also
follow the dispute procedures outlined in “Credit Reports” on this page. Contact the credit bureaus to find
out more about how the “Police Report Initiative” works.
If you’re having trouble getting a police report, see
“Tips on Filing a Police Report” on page 13.
The ID Theft Affidavit: Since you didn’t open the accounts in dispute or run up the related debts, of course
you don’t have any paperwork showing you didn’t do
these things. That’s where the ID Theft Affidavit can be
very helpful. The FTC, in conjunction with banks, credit
grantors and consumer advocates, developed the ID
Theft Affidavit (see page 29) to help you close unauthorized accounts and get rid of debts wrongfully attributed to your name. If you don’t have a police report or
any paperwork from creditors, send the completed ID
Theft Affidavit to the three major credit bureaus. They
will use it to start the dispute investigation process. Not
all companies accept the ID Theft Affidavit. They may
require you to use their forms instead. Check first.
continued on page 16
Creditor Documentation: Getting documentation from a creditor
may be difficult. Creditors’ policies on confidentiality and record
keeping vary and may
prevent you from getting
the paperwork you need
to prove you didn’t make
the transaction. On the
upside, most victims can
get accounts closed and
debts dismissed by
completing the creditor’s
fraud paperwork or the
ID Theft Affidavit and
including a copy of your
police report. Insist on a
letter from the creditor
stating that they have
closed the disputed
accounts and have
discharged you of the
fraudulent debts. This
letter is your best defense
if errors reappear or
your personal information gets re-circulated.
(See Tips on Organizing
Your Case, page 13).
This letter is also the best
document to give credit
bureaus and debt collectors if your police report
and ID Theft Affidavit
aren’t enough to resolve
your problems with
future dispute with the credit
bureau or an information provider
about inaccurate information that
should be blocked from your
First, call the credit bureau
and follow up in writing. Tell
them what information you
believe is inaccurate. Include
copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position.
If you don’t have any paperwork
from the creditor, send a copy of
the police report and the ID Theft
Affidavit (see page 29.) In
addition to providing your complete name and address, your
letter should clearly identify each
item in your report that you
dispute, give the facts and explain
why you dispute the information,
and request deletion or correction.
You may want to enclose a copy
of your report with circles around
the items in question. Your letter
may look something like the
sample on page 17. Send your
letter by certified mail, return
receipt requested, so you can
document what the credit bureau
received and when. Keep copies
of your dispute letter and
The credit bureau’s investigation must be completed within 30
days (45 days if you provide
additional documents). If the
credit bureau considers your
dispute frivolous (which may
mean it believes you didn’t
provide enough documentation to
support your claim), it must tell
you so within five business days.
Otherwise, it must forward all
relevant documents you provide
about the dispute to the information provider. The information
provider then must investigate,
review all relevant information
provided by the credit bureau,
and report the results to the credit
bureau. If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must
notify any nationwide credit
bureau to which it reports, so that
the credit bureau can correct this
information in your file. Note
• Disputed information that
cannot be verified must be
deleted from your file.
• If your report contains erroneous information, the credit bureau
must correct it.
• If an item is incomplete, the
credit bureau must complete it.
For example, if your file shows
that you have been late making
payments, but fails to show that
you are no longer delinquent, the
credit bureau must show that
you’re current.
• If your file shows an account
that belongs to someone else, the
credit bureau must delete it.
When the investigation is
complete, the credit bureau must
give you the written results and,
if the dispute results in a change,
a free copy of your report. If an
item is changed or removed, the
credit bureau cannot put the
disputed information back in your
file unless the information provider verifies its accuracy and
completeness, and the credit
bureau gives you a written notice
that includes the name, address
and phone number of the information provider.
If you ask, the credit bureau
must send notices of corrections
to anyone who received your
report in the past six months. Job
applicants can have a corrected
copy of their report sent to
anyone who received a copy
during the past two years for
employment purposes. If an
investigation does not resolve
your dispute, ask the credit
bureau to include a 100-word
statement of the dispute in your
file and in future reports.
Second, in addition to writing
to the credit bureau, write to the
creditor or other information
provider to tell them that you
dispute an item. Again, include
copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position,
like your police report and the ID
Theft Affidavit. Many information
providers specify an address for
disputes. If the information
provider then reports the disputed
item(s) to a credit bureau, it must
include a notice of your dispute.
If you’re correct that the disputed
information is not inaccurate, the
information provider may not use
it again.
For more information, see
How to Dispute Credit Report
Errors and Fair Credit Reporting, from the FTC at
Credit Cards
In most cases, the Truth in
Lending Act limits your liability
for unauthorized credit card
charges to $50 per card. The Fair
Credit Billing Act (FCBA)
establishes procedures for resolving billing errors on your credit
card accounts. This includes
fraudulent charges on
Your Name
Your Address
Your City, State, Zip Code
Complaint Department
Name of Credit Bureau
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute the following information in my file.
The items I dispute also are circled on the attached copy of
the report I received. (Identify item(s) disputed by name of
source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of
item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.)
I am a victim of identity theft, and did not make the
charge(s). I am requesting that the item be blocked to
correct my credit report.
Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and
describe any enclosed documentation) supporting my
position. Please investigate this (these) matter(s) and block
the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.
Your name
Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing.)
your accounts.
To take advantage of the law’s
consumer protections, you must:
and date of the error. Your letter
may look something like the
sample on page 18.
• write to the creditor at the
address given for “billing inquiries,” not the address for sending
your payments. Include your
name, address, account number
and a description of the fraudulent charge, including the amount
• send your letter so that it
reaches the creditor within 60
days from when the first bill
containing the fraudulent charge
was mailed to you. If the address
on your account was changed by
an identity thief and you never
Your Name
Your Address
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Account Number
Name of Creditor
Billing Inquiries
City, State, Zip Code
Debt Collectors
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute a fraudulent (charge or debit)
attributed to my account in the amount of $______. I am a
victim of identity theft, and I did not make this (charge or
debit). I am requesting that the (charge be removed or the
debit reinstated), that any finance and other charges
related to the fraudulent amount be credited as well, and
that I receive an accurate statement.
Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence to describe any
enclosed information, such as police report) supporting my
position. Please investigate this matter and correct the
fraudulent (charge or debit) as soon as possible.
Your name
Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing.)
received the bill, your dispute
letter still must reach the creditor
within 60 days of when the bill
would have been mailed to you.
This is why it’s so important to
keep track of your billing statements and immediately follow up
when your bills don’t arrive on
Send your letter by certified
mail, return receipt requested.
resolved. The creditor must
resolve the dispute within two
billing cycles (but not more than
90 days) after receiving your
For more information, see
Fair Credit Billing and Avoiding
Credit and Charge Card Fraud,
from the FTC at
This will be your proof of the
date the creditor received the
letter. Include copies (NOT
originals) of sales slips or other
documents that support your
position. Keep a copy of your
dispute letter.
The creditor must acknowledge your complaint in writing
within 30 days after receiving it,
unless the problem has been
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors
from using unfair or deceptive
practices to collect overdue bills
that a creditor has forwarded for
You can stop a debt collector
from contacting you by writing a
letter to the collection agency
telling them to stop. Once the
debt collector receives your letter,
the company may not contact you
again – with two exceptions: they
can tell you there will be no
further contact and they can tell
you that the debt collector or the
creditor intends to take some
specific action.
A collector also may not
contact you if, within 30 days
after you receive the written
notice, you send the collection
agency a letter stating you do not
owe the money.
Although your letter should
stop the debt collector’s calls and
dunning notices, it will not
necessarily get rid of the debt
itself, which may still turn up on
your credit report.
A collector can renew collection activities if you’re sent proof
of the debt. So, along with your
letter stating you don’t owe the
money, include copies of documents that support your position.
you can be held responsible for
depends on how quickly you
report the loss.
• If you report your ATM card lost
or stolen within two business days
of discovering the loss or theft,
your losses are limited to $50.
• If you report your ATM card lost
or stolen after the two business
days, but within 60 days after a
statement showing an unauthorized electronic fund transfer, you
can be liable for up to $500 of
what a thief withdraws.
• If you wait more than 60 days,
you could lose all the money that
was taken from your account
from the end of the 60 days to the
time you reported your card
signature.You can then prove that
it’s not your signature on the
application. In many cases, the
debt collector will not send you
any proof, but will instead
return the debt to the creditor.
For more information, see
Fair Debt Collection from the
FTC at
If you’re a victim of identity
theft, include a copy (NOT the
original) of the police report. If
you don’t have documentation to
support your position, be as
specific as possible about why the
debt collector is mistaken.
The debt collector is responsible for sending you proof that
you’re wrong. For example, if the
debt in dispute originates from a
credit card you never applied for,
ask for the actual application
containing the applicant’s
ATM Cards, Debit Cards
and Electronic Fund
The Electronic Fund Transfer Act
provides consumer protections
for transactions involving an
ATM or debit card or any other
electronic way to debit or credit
an account. It also limits your
liability for unauthorized electronic fund transfers.
It’s important to report lost or
stolen ATM and debit cards
immediately because the amount
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
After receiving notification
about an error on your statement,
the financial 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 the error
has occurred. If the institution
needs more time, it may take up
to 45 days to complete the investigation – but only if the money in
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, file a complaint
with the FTC by contacting the FTC’s Identity Theft
Hotline by telephone: toll-free 1-877-IDTHEFT (4384338)
4338); TDD: 202-326-2502; by mail: Identity Theft
Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580; or
online: www
Although the FTC does not have the authority to bring
criminal cases, the Commission can help victims of
identity theft by providing information to assist them in
resolving the financial and other problems that can
result from this crime.
By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC,
you will provide important information that can help
law enforcement officials track down identity thieves
and stop them. The FTC also refers victim complaints to
other appropriate government agencies and private
organizations for further action.
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.
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.
For more information, see
Electronic Banking and Credit,
ATM and Debit Cards: What to
Do If They’re Lost or Stolen, two
consumer publications from the
FTC at
Specific Problems
umerous federal and
state agencies have
jurisdiction over specific
aspects of identity theft. If your
theft relates to any of the following categories, contact the agencies directly for help and information or to initiate an investigation.
• Your Wallet: A Loser’s Manual
Federal Reserve System (Fed)
The Fed supervises statechartered banks that are members
Bank Fraud
of the Federal Reserve System.
If you’re having trouble getting
Call: 202-452-3693; or write:
your financial institution to help
Division of Consumer and
you resolve your banking-related Community Affairs, Mail Stop
identity theft problems, including 801, Federal Reserve Board,
problems with bank-issued credit Washington, DC 20551; or
cards, contact the agency with the contact the Federal Reserve Bank
appropriate jurisdiction. If you’re in your area. The 12 Reserve
not sure which of the agencies
Banks are located in Boston,
listed below has jurisdiction over New York, Philadelphia, Cleveyour institution, call your bank or land, Richmond, Atlanta, Chivisit
cago, St. Louis, Minneapolis,
Kansas City, Dallas and San
Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation (FDIC) –
National Credit Union
istration (NCUA) –
The FDIC supervises
chartered banks that are not
The NCUA charters and
members of the Federal Reserve supervises federal credit unions
System and insures deposits at
and insures deposits at federal
banks and savings and loans.
credit unions and many state
Call the FDIC Consumer Call credit unions.
Center at 1-800-934-3342; or
Call: 703-518-6360; or write:
write: Federal Deposit Insurance Compliance Officer, National
Corporation, Division of Compli- Credit Union Administration,
ance and Consumer Affairs, 550
1775 Duke Street, Alexandria,
17th Street, NW, Washington,
VA 22314.
DC 20429.
FDIC publications:
Office of the Comptroller of
• Classic Cons... And How to
the Currency (OCC) –
Counter Them –
The OCC charters and
supervises national banks. If the
• A Crook Has Drained Your
word “national” appears in the
Account. Who Pays? –
name of a bank, or the initials
“N.A.” follow its name, the OCC
oversees its operations.
Call: 1-800-613-6743 (busi-
ness days 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
CST); fax: 713-336-4301; write:
Customer Assistance Group,
1301 McKinney Street, Suite
3710, Houston, TX 77010.
OCC publications:
• Check Fraud: A Guide to
Avoiding Losses –
• How to Avoid Becoming a
Victim of Identity Theft –
• Identity Theft and Pretext
Calling Advisory Letter 2001-4 –
Office of Thrift Supervision
(OTS) –
The OTS is the primary
regulator of all federal, and many
state-chartered, thrift institutions,
which include 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) –
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’s Regional
Offices is available on the UST
website, or check the Blue Pages
of your phone book under U.S.
Government Bankruptcy Administration.
Your letter should describe
the situation and provide proof of
your identity. The U.S. Trustee, if
appropriate, will make a criminal
county other than where you live,
ask your local police department
to send the impersonation report
to the police department in the
jurisdiction where the arrest
warrant, traffic citation or
criminal conviction originated.
The law enforcement agency
should then recall any warrants
and issue a “clearance letter” or
certificate of release (if you were
arrested/booked). You’ll need to
keep this document with you at
all times in case you’re wrongly
arrested. Also, ask the law
enforcement agency to file, with
the district attorney’s (D.A.)
office and/or court where the
crime took place, the record of
the follow-up investigation
Criminal Violations
establishing your innocence. This
will result in an amended comAlthough procedures to correct
plaint being issued. Once your
your record within the criminal
name is recorded in a criminal
justice databases vary from state
to state, and even from county to database, it’s unlikely that it will
county, the following information be completely removed from the
official record. Ask that the “key
can be used as a general guide.
If wrongful criminal violations name,” or “primary name,” be
changed from your name to the
are attributed to your name,
contact the arresting or citing law imposter’s name (or to “John
enforcement agency – that is, the Doe” if the imposter’s true
police or sheriff’s department that identity is not known), with your
name noted only as an alias.
originally arrested the person
You’ll also want to clear your
using your identity, or the court
in the court records. You’ll
agency that issued the warrant for
determine which state
the arrest. File an impersonation
law(s) will help you do this and
report. And have your identity
confirmed: The police department how. If your state has no formal
procedure for clearing your
takes a full set of your fingerrecord, contact the D.A.’s office
prints and your photograph, and
in the county where the case was
copies any photo identification
originally prosecuted. Ask the
documents like your driver’s
license, passport or visa. Ask the D.A.’s office for the appropriate
court records needed to clear
law enforcement agency to
your name.
compare the prints and photoFinally, contact your state
graphs with those of the imposter
to establish your innocence. If the DMV to find out if your driver’s
license is being used by the
arrest warrant is from a state or
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. Those documents
are available from the bankruptcy
clerk’s office for a fee.
identity thief. Ask that your files
be flagged for possible fraud.
You may need to hire a
criminal defense attorney to help
you clear your name. Contact
Legal Services in your state or
your local bar association for help
in finding an attorney.
Fake Driver’s License
If you think your name or SSN is
being used by an identity thief to
get a driver’s license or a nondriver’s ID card, contact your
DMV. If your state uses your
SSN as your driver’s license
number, ask to substitute another
Investment Fraud
U.S. Securities and Exchange
Commission (SEC) –
The SEC’s Office of Investor
Education and Assistance serves
investors who complain to the
SEC about investment fraud or
the mishandling of their investments by securities professionals.
If you believe that an identity
thief has tampered with your
securities investments or a
brokerage account, immediately
report it to your broker or account manager and to the SEC.
You can file a complaint with the
SEC using the online Complaint
Center at
complaint.shtml. Be sure to
include as much detail as possible. If you don’t have access to
the Internet, you can write to the
SEC at: SEC Office of Investor
Education and Assistance, 450
Fifth Street, NW, Washington
DC, 20549-0213. For general
questions, call 202-942-7040.
Mail Theft
U.S. Postal Inspection Service
USPIS is the law enforcement
arm of the U.S. Postal Service
responsible for investigating
cases of identity theft. USPIS has
primary jurisdiction in all matters
infringing on the integrity of the
U.S. mail. If an identity thief has
stolen your mail to get new credit
cards, bank or credit card statements, pre-screened credit offers
or tax information, has falsified
change-of-address forms, or
obtained your personal information through a fraud conducted by
mail, report it to your local postal
inspector. You can locate the
USPIS district office nearest you
by calling your local post office or
checking the list at the website
Passport Fraud
United States Department of
State (USDS) –
If you’ve lost your passport or
believe it was stolen or is being
used fraudulently, contact the
USDS through their website or
call a local USDS field office.
Local field offices are listed in the
Blue Pages of your telephone
Phone Fraud
If an identity thief has established
phone service in your name, is
making unauthorized calls that
seem to come from – and are
billed to – your cellular phone, or
is using your calling card and
PIN, contact your service pro-
Under certain circumstances, SSA may issue you a new
SSN – at your request – if, after trying to resolve the
problems brought on by identity theft, you continue to
experience problems. Consider this option carefully. A
new SSN may not resolve your identity theft problems,
and may actually create new problems. For example, a
new SSN does not necessarily ensure a new credit
record because credit bureaus may combine the credit
records from your old SSN with those from your new
SSN. Even when the old credit information is not associated with your new SSN, the absence of any credit
history under your new SSN may make it more difficult
for you to get credit. And finally, there’s no guarantee
that a new SSN also would not be misused by an identity thief.
vider immediately to cancel the
account and/or calling card. Open
new accounts and choose new
PINs. If you’re having trouble
getting fraudulent phone charges
removed from your account or
getting an unauthorized account
closed, contact the appropriate
agency from the list below.
For local service, contact
your state Public Utility Commission.
For cellular phones and
long distance, contact the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) –
The FCC regulates interstate and
international communications by
radio, television, wire, satellite
and cable. You can contact the
FCC’s Consumer Information
Bureau to find out about information, forms, applications and
current issues before the FCC.
Call: 1-888-CALL-FCC; TTY: 1888-TELL-FCC; or write:
Federal Communications Commission, Consumer Information
Bureau, 445 12th Street, SW,
Room 5A863, Washington, DC
20554. You can file complaints
via the online complaint form at, or e-mail questions to [email protected]
Social Security Number
Theft and Misuse
Social Security Administration
(SSA) –
The SSA Office of the
Inspector General investigates
cases of identity theft. Report
allegations that an SSN has been
stolen or misused to the SSA
Fraud Hotline. Call: 1-800- 2690271; fax: 410-597-0118; write:
SSA Fraud Hotline, P.O. Box
17768, Baltimore, MD 21235; or
e-mail: [email protected]
Also call SSA at 1-800-7721213 to verify the accuracy of
the earnings reported on your
SSN, and to request a copy of
your Social Security Statement.
Follow up in writing.
SSA publications:
• SSA Fraud Hotline for Reporting Fraud –
• Social Security: Your Number
and Card (SSA Pub. No. 0510002) –
• When Someone Misuses Your
Number (SSA Pub. No. 0510064) –
Tax Fraud
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
The IRS is responsible for
administering and enforcing tax
laws. If you believe someone has
assumed your identity to file
federal Income Tax Returns, or to
commit other tax fraud, call tollfree: 1-800-829-0433. Victims of
identity theft who are having
trouble filing their returns should
call the IRS Taxpayer Advocates
Office, toll-free:
Federal TTrade
rade Commission (FT
C) – www
The FTC is educating consumers and businesses about the
importance of personal information privacy. Here are some
additional publications you may find useful. To request a
C -HELP (382-4357) or visit
free copy, call 1-877-FT
• Getting Purse-onal: What To Do If Your Wallet or Purse Is Stolen
• Identity Crisis... What to Do If Your Identity Is Stolen
• Identity Thieves Can Ruin Your Good Name: Tips for Avoiding
Identity Theft
• Avoiding Credit and Charge Card Fraud
• Credit, ATM and Debit Cards: What to Do If They’re Lost or
• Credit Card Loss Protection Offers: They’re The Real Steal
• Electronic Banking
• Fair Credit Billing
• Fair Credit Reporting
• Fair Debt Collection
•How to Dispute Credit Report Errors
Department of Justice (DOJ) – www
The DOJ and its U.S. Attorneys prosecute federal identity
theft cases. Information on identity theft is available at
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – www
The FBI, a criminal law enforcement agency, investigates
cases of identity theft. The FBI recognizes that identity theft
is a component of many crimes including bank fraud, mail
fraud, wire fraud, bankruptcy fraud, insurance fraud, fraud
against the government, and terrorism. Local field offices
are listed in the Blue Pages of your telephone directory.
.S.. Secret Service (USSS) – www
The U.S. Secret Service investigates financial crimes, which
may include identity theft. Although the Secret Service generally investigates cases where the dollar loss is substantial,
your information may provide evidence of a larger pattern
of fraud requiring their involvement. Local field offices are
listed in the Blue Pages of your telephone directory.
Financial Crimes Division –
It’s the Law
Federal Law
he Identity Theft and
Assumption Deterrence
Act, enacted by Congress
in October 1998 (and codified, in
part, at 18 U.S.C. §1028) is the
federal law making identity theft
a crime.
Identity Theft and
Assumption Deterrence
Act of 1998
The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act makes
it a federal crime when someone
“knowingly transfers or uses,
without lawful authority, a means
of identification of another person
with the intent to commit, or to
aid or abet, any unlawful activity
that constitutes a violation of
federal law, or that constitutes a
felony under any applicable state
or local law.”
Under the Act, a name or
SSN is considered a “means of
identification.” So is a credit card
number, cellular telephone
electronic serial number or any
other piece of information that
may be used alone or in conjunction with other information to
identify a specific individual.
Violations of the Act are
investigated by federal law
enforcement agencies, including
the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI,
the U.S. Postal Inspection
Service, and SSA’s Office of the
Inspector General. Federal
identity theft cases are prosecuted by the U.S. Department of
In most instances, a conviction for identity theft carries a
maximum penalty of 15 years
imprisonment, a fine and forfeiture of any personal property
used or intended to be used to
commit the crime. Pursuant to the
Act, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has developed federal
sentencing guidelines to provide
appropriate penalties for those
persons convicted of identity
Schemes to commit identity
theft or fraud also may involve
violations of other statutes, such
as credit card fraud, computer
fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud,
financial institution fraud, or
Social Security fraud. Each of
these federal offenses is a felony
and carries substantial penalties –
in some cases, as high as 30 years
in prison as well as fines and
criminal forfeiture.
or visit
idtheft. State laws enacted at the
time of this booklet’s publication
are listed below.
State Laws
No ID theft law
Many states have passed laws
related to identity theft; others are
considering such legislation.
Where specific identity theft laws
do not exist, the practices may be
prohibited under other laws.
Contact your State Attorney
General’s office (for a list of state
offices, visit or
local consumer protection agency
for laws related to identity theft,
Alabama Code § 13A-8-190
through 201
Alaska Stat. § 11.46.565
Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-2008
Ark. Code Ann. § 5-37-227
Cal. Penal Code § 530.5-530.8
Conn. Stat. § 53a-129a (criminal);
Conn. Stat. § 52-571h (civil)
11 Del Code, § 854
Fla. Stat. Ann. § 817.568
Ga. Code Ann. § 16-9-120
through 128
No ID theft law
Idaho Code § 18-3126 (criminal);
Idaho Code § 28-51-102 (civil)
720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/16G
Ind. Code § 35-43-5-3.5
Mon. Code Ann. § 45-6-332
No ID theft law
Nev. Rev. State. § 205.463-465
New Hampshire
N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 638:26
New Jersey
N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:21-17
New Mexico
N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-16-24.1
TCA § 39-14-150 (criminal);
TCA § 47-18-2101 (civil)
Tex. Penal Code § 32.51
Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-11011104
Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-186.3
No ID theft law
Iowa Code § 715A.8 (criminal);
Iowa Code § 714.16.B (civil)
New York
No ID theft law
Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-4018
North Carolina
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-113.20-23
Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 514.160
North Dakota
N.D.Cent. Codes § 12.1-23-11
La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:67.16
Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2913.49
No ID theft law
Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 1533.1
Md. Code Ann. art. 27, § 231
Or. Rev. Stat. § 165.800
9 Guam Code Ann. § 46.80
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266, § 37E
18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4120
U.S. Virgin Islands
No ID theft law
Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.219e
Rhode Island
R.I. Gen. Laws Sect. 11-49-1.1
Minn. Stat. § 609.527
South Carolina
S.C. Code Ann. § 16-13-510
Miss. Code Ann. § 97-19-85
South Dakota
S.D. Codified Laws § 22-30A3.1.
Mo. Rev. Stat. § 570.223
Wash. Rev. Code § 9.35.020
West Virginia
W. Va. Code § 61-3-54
Wis. Stat. § 943.201
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-3-901
Instructions for
Completing the ID Theft Affidavit
To make certain that you do not become responsible for the debts incurred by the identity thief,
you must provide proof that you didn’t create the
debt to each of the companies where accounts
where opened or used in your name.
A working group composed of credit grantors, consumer advocates and the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) developed this ID Theft
Affidavit to help you report information to many
companies using just one standard form. Use of
this affidavit is optional for companies. While many
companies accept this affidavit, others require that
you submit more or different forms. Before you
send the affidavit, contact each company to find
out if they accept it.
You can use this affidavit where a new account was opened in your name. The information
will enable the companies to investigate the fraud
and decide the outcome of your claim. (If someone made unauthorized charges to an existing
account, call the company to find out what to
This affidavit has two parts:
■ ID Theft Affidavit is where you report general
information about yourself and the theft.
Fraudulent Account Statement is
where you describe the fraudulent account(s)
opened in your name. Use a separate Fraudulent Account Statement for each company you
need to write to.
When you send the affidavit to the companies, attach copies (NOT originals) of any supporting documents (for example, drivers license, police
report) you have. Before submitting your affidavit,
review the disputed account(s) with family members or friends who may have information about
the account(s) or access to them.
Complete this affidavit as soon as possible. Many creditors ask that you send it within
two weeks of receiving it. Delaying could slow the
Be as accurate and complete as possible.
You may choose not to provide some of the
information requested. However, incorrect or
incomplete information will slow the process of
investigating your claim and absolving the debt.
Please print clearly.
When you have finished completing the
affidavit, mail a copy to each creditor, bank or
company that provided the thief with the unauthorized credit, goods or services you describe.
Attach to each affidavit a copy of the Fraudulent
Account Statement with information only on
accounts opened at the institution receiving the
packet, as well as any other supporting documentation you are able to provide.
Send the appropriate documents to each
company by certified mail, return receipt
requested, so you can prove that it was received.
The companies will review your claim and send
you a written response telling you the outcome of
their investigation. Keep a copy of everything
you submit for your records.
If you cannot complete the affidavit, a legal
guardian or someone with power of attorney may
complete it for you. Except as noted, the information you provide will be used only by the company
to process your affidavit, investigate the events
you report and help stop further fraud. If this
affidavit is requested in a lawsuit, the company
might have to provide it to the requesting party.
Completing this affidavit does not guarantee
that the identity thief will be prosecuted or that
the debt will be cleared.
If you haven’t already done so, report the fraud
to the following organizations:
1. Each of the three national consumer
reporting agencies. Ask each agency to
place a “fraud alert” on your credit report,
and send you a copy of your credit file.
When you have completed your affidavit
packet, you may want to send them a copy
to help them investigate the disputed
Equifax Credit Information Services,
(800) 525-6285/ TDD 1-800-255-0056 and
ask the operator to call the Auto Disclosure
Line at 1-800-685-1111 to obtain a copy of
your report.
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian Information Solutions, Inc.
(888) 397-3742/ TDD (800) 972-0322
P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
(800) 680-7289/ TDD (877) 553-7803
Fraud Victim Assistance Division
P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
2. The fraud department at each creditor,
bank, or utility/service that provided the
identity thief with unauthorized credit,
goods or services. This would be a good
time to find out if the company accepts this
affidavit, and whether they require notarization or a copy of the police report.
3. Your local police department. Ask the
officer to take a report and give you a copy
of the report. Sending a copy of your police
report to financial institutions can speed up
the process of absolving you of wrongful
debts or removing inaccurate information
from your credit reports. If you can’t get a
copy, at least get the number of the report.
4. The FTC, which maintains the Identity
Theft Data Clearinghouse – the federal
government’s centralized identity theft
complaint database – and provides information to identity theft victims. You can visit or call tollfree 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338).
The FTC collects complaints from identity
theft victims and shares their information
with law enforcement agencies nationwide.
This information also may be shared with
other government agencies, consumer
reporting agencies, and companies where
the fraud was perpetrated to help resolve
identity theft-related problems.
Name __________________________________ Phone number _______________________ Page 1
ID Theft Affidavit
Victim Information
(1) My full legal name is ___________________________________________________________
(Jr., Sr., III)
(2) (If different from above) When the events described in this affidavit took place, I was known as
(Jr., Sr., III)
(3) My date of birth is ____________________
(4) My Social Security number is________________________________
(5) My driver’s license or identification card state and number are__________________________
(6) My current address is __________________________________________________________
City ___________________________ State _________________ Zip Code ______________
(7) I have lived at this address since ____________________
(8) (If different from above) When the events described in this affidavit took place, my address was
City ___________________________ State _________________ Zip Code ______________
(9) I lived at the address in Item 8 from __________ until __________
(10) My daytime telephone number is (____)____________________
My evening telephone number is (____)____________________
__________________________________ Phone number _______________________ Page 2
How the Fraud Occurred
Check all that apply for items 11 - 17:
(11) ❑ I did not authorize anyone to use my name or personal information to seek the money,
credit, loans, goods or services described in this report.
(12) ❑ I did not receive any benefit, money, goods or services as a result of the events described
in this report.
(13) ❑ My identification documents (for example, credit cards; birth certificate; driver’s license;
Social Security card; etc.) were ❑ stolen ❑ lost on or about __________________.
(14) ❑ To the best of my knowledge and belief, the following person(s) used my information (for
example, my name, address, date of birth, existing account numbers, Social Security
number, mother’s maiden name, etc.) or identification documents to get money, credit,
loans, goods or services without my knowledge or authorization:
Name (if known)
Address (if known)
Phone number(s) (if known)
Additional information (if known)
Name (if known)
Address (if known)
Phone number(s) (if known)
Additional information (if known)
(15) ❑ I do NOT know who used my information or identification documents to get money,
credit, loans, goods or services without my knowledge or authorization.
(16) ❑ Additional comments: (For example, description of the fraud, which documents or
information were used or how the identity thief gained access to your information.)
(Attach additional pages as necessary.)
__________________________________ Phone number _______________________ Page 3
Victim’s Law Enforcement Actions
(17) (check one) I ❑ am
committed this fraud.
❑ am not
willing to assist in the prosecution of the person(s) who
(18) (check one) I ❑ am ❑ am not authorizing the release of this information to law
enforcement for the purpose of assisting them in the investigation and prosecution of the
person(s) who committed this fraud.
(19) (check all that apply) I ❑ have ❑ have not reported the events described in this affidavit
to the police or other law enforcement agency. The police ❑ did ❑ did not write a
report. In the event you have contacted the police or other law enforcement agency, please
complete the following:
(Agency #1)
(Date of report)
(Phone number)
(Officer/Agency personnel taking report)
(Report number, if any)
(email address, if any)
(Agency #2)
(Date of report)
(Phone number)
(Officer/Agency personnel taking report)
(Report number, if any)
(email address, if any)
Documentation Checklist
Please indicate the supporting documentation you are able to provide to the companies you plan to
notify. Attach copies (NOT originals) to the affidavit before sending it to the companies.
(20) ❑ A copy of a valid government-issued photo-identification card (for example, your driver’s
license, state-issued ID card or your passport). If you are under 16 and don’t have a
photo-ID, you may submit a copy of your birth certificate or a copy of your official school
records showing your enrollment and place of residence.
(21) ❑ Proof of residency during the time the disputed bill occurred, the loan was made or the
other event took place (for example, a rental/lease agreement in your name, a copy of a
utility bill or a copy of an insurance bill).
__________________________________ Phone number _______________________ Page 4
(22) ❑ A copy of the report you filed with the police or sheriff’s department. If you are unable to
obtain a report or report number from the police, please indicate that in Item 19. Some
companies only need the report number, not a copy of the report. You may want to check
with each company.
I declare under penalty of perjury that the information I have provided in this affidavit is true and
correct to the best of my knowledge.
(date signed)
Knowingly submitting false information on this form could subject you to criminal
prosecution for perjury.
[Check with each company. Creditors sometimes require notarization. If they do not, please have one
witness (non-relative) sign below that you completed and signed this affidavit.]
(printed name)
(telephone number)
__________________________________ Phone number _______________________ Page 5
Fraudulent Account Statement
Completing this Statement
• Make as many copies of this page as you need. Complete a separate page for each
company you’re notifying and only send it to that company. Include a copy of your
signed affidavit.
• List only the account(s) you’re disputing with the company receiving this form. See the
example below.
• If a collection agency sent you a statement, letter or notice about the fraudulent account,
attach a copy of that document (NOT the original).
I declare (check all that apply):
❑ As a result of the event(s) described in the ID Theft Affidavit, the following account(s) was/were
opened at your company in my name without my knowledge, permission or authorization using
my personal information or identifying documents:
Creditor Name/Address
(the company that opened the
account or provided the goods or
Example National Bank
22 Main Street
Columbus, Ohio 22722
Type of unauthorized
provided by creditor
(if known)
auto loan
issued or
(if known)
(the amount
charged or the
cost of the
During the time of the accounts described above, I had the following account open with your company:
Billing name ___________________________________________________________________
Billing address__________________________________________________________________
Account number _______________________________________________________________
The FTC’s Privacy Policy
To file a complaint or to learn more about the FTC’s Privacy Policy, visit If you don’t have access to the Internet, you can
call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline: toll-free 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338);
TDD: 202-326-2502; or write: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade
Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.
1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338)
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