Published: March, 2005, Federal Trade Commission
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. Identity theft occurs when someone uses a consumer�s personal and confidential information, such as name, address, and social security number, without the consumer�s knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes.
Victims of identity theft are urged to take the following steps as soon as possible: contact the three nationwide consumer-reporting agencies; close fraudulent accounts and contact the police and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). For in-depth information on recovering from identity theft, please read Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft. The resource, published by the FTC, provides vital information relating to fraud, including topics such as how identity theft occurs, immediate steps to take and how to resolve specific problems and minimize reoccurrences.
A consumer-reporting agency must send the document Remedying the Effects of Identity Theft, http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/idtsummary.pdf, to a consumer upon notification that the consumer may be a victim of fraud or identity theft. This document informs identity theft victims of their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
To ensure that you do not become responsible for any debts incurred by an identity thief, you must prove to each company at which accounts were opened or used in your name that you did not create the debt. It is necessary to provide an ID Theft Affidavit, http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/affidavit.pdf, anywhere a new account was opened in your name. This affidavit is composed of an ID Theft Affidavit (in which you report general information about yourself and the theft) and a Fraudulent Account Statement (in which you describe the fraudulent account(s) opened in your name). If the identity thief has made unauthorized charges to an existing account, ask the company for forms to dispute those transactions.
You should review your consumer report periodically to check for any fraudulent or inaccurate information. You have the right to receive a free copy of your consumer report, once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian & TransUnion). Please note that not all sections of the country are eligible for free reports yet; availability is spreading from west to east.
Consumers may find additional information regarding identity theft by visiting http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft.