ITRC Fact Sheet 108
Overcoming the Emotional Impact

This guide covers:

You’ve been spending hours writing credit card companies, calling merchants and spending time on hold with credit bureaus waiting to report the crime and request your credit report. Each time you answer the telephone or go to the mailbox, you wonder what new bill will appear. The idea of dealing with yet another collection agency or a newly discovered credit card leaves you filled with dread, rage, and helplessness.

Identity theft is a complex problem. It is NORMAL for this crime to have an emotional impact on you and your family. In fact, it would be unusual if it did not. At one point or another, victims of identity theft may feel overwhelmed by the psychological pain of loss, helplessness, anger, isolation, betrayal, rage, and even embarrassment. This crime triggers deep fears regarding financial security, the safety of family members, and the ability to ever trust again.

Dealing with the mess left by an imposter is only part of your job. This crime, like other long-term crimes that involve repeated emotional abuse, can affect not only your emotional stability, but that of your family. So, while you take care of the paperwork, don’t forget to leave a little time to work on healing your and your family’s emotional wounds.

THE MOMENT OF DISCOVERY:

Be prepared for a roller coaster ride of emotions. As effects of this crime sink in you may well find yourself cycling between denial (This is not happening.) and rage (How dare they!), endless questioning (How did this happen? Why me?), and hopelessness and vulnerability (Nothing can protect me.). Few people are emotionally prepared for the impact of identity theft. There is a loss of innocence and trust associated with this crime. You may also have to deal with the fact that someone you know personally may be involved in the theft. That’s a lot to absorb.

Finally, you may feel stonewalled by the very people you turn to for help. Identity theft is a difficult crime to solve, and the wheels of justice are still very squeaky. Be patient with yourself and with those who want to help.

STARTING THE HEALING PROCESS:

While it might take some time to straighten out the paper trail, it is important for you to regain your emotional balance as quickly as possible. The feelings you have are valid. You have been harmed. Recognizing and accepting your fears, apprehensions and frustrations is the first step.

They might even sneak up on you, unexpected, sometimes long after the original crime, triggered by a situation most people would just shrug off. Such emotional floods are a part of the healing process.

  • Embarrassment is a waste of time and energy. Some people become embarrassed about becoming an identity theft victim. They feel ashamed and that they did something wrong or maybe deserved to have this happen to them. No one deserves to be a victim of identity theft. We all do foolish things, moments we would give anything to get back, and do just the opposite. That’s in the past and beating up on yourself will not make this go away.
  • You are not alone. In 2012, there were an estimated 12.6 million new victims of identity theft (Javelin). There are state and non-profit programs available to help you. You don’t need to go through this experience alone.
  • Appreciate the value of a support team. The emotional damage and isolation you feel can be compounded if you believe family members or friends don’t understand what you are going through. The reality is that people who have not gone through identity theft may not realize the on-going impact of this crime. Many victims find that after they explain how they feel, and ask for on-going support, their support team is more open to being there through the long haul.
  • Personality Changes. It’s not surprising that something like identity theft may cause a certain amount of personality changes including the ways you relate to others. Identity theft undermines our belief in the trustworthiness of others. Identity theft is life-altering; the amount of change depends on many factors including your own ability to overcome adversity. However, if you feel the changes have gotten out of hand, or people on your support team raise some concerns, you may want to seek professional or spiritual help from someone who understands identity theft victimization.

OVERCOMING FEELINGS OF POWERLESSNESS:

  • Recognize your emotions. An emotion is your reaction a situation. While it may not always seem like it, your reaction is under your control. When you say, “He made me angry,” you are mentally giving another person your power over your reaction. He didn’t make you angry – in that split second, without conscious thought, you chose to become angry. That awareness is a step in regaining control over the situation.
  • Be consistent and organized. In terms of paperwork, consistence and organization are key. Keep track of whom you talk with and what needs to be done next. Keep a journal with a calendar of “things to do.” If you can control the process, you will feel more empowered.
  • Don’t forget the rest of your life. Emotionally, at times, it is going to feel like you have no control over your own life. You might feel battered and bounced from one person or agency to another in your quest to clear your name. While identity theft seems all-consuming, it is important to acknowledge the other parts of your life that this crime has not touched. Focus on your accomplishments in life, both in the past and currently. Work to keep balance in your life and not let your identity theft case become your life.
  • Accentuate the positives. Eventually, some victims find a gift in identity theft. They learn how powerful they truly are under tough circumstances. They find an assertiveness they never exercised before. They learn how to talk with high level people and get what they want, sometimes with a boldness they never knew they had. In addition, they find who their true friends are.

TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF:

  • Be kind to yourself. Don’t let cleaning up the problems left by identity theft become a full time job. Take the time to pamper yourself and your support team. Now is the time to take advantage of those two-for-one dinner coupons, offers from others to babysit your kids, and friends willing to carpool or help with the housework. This is not a time to start a new diet. Listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs – rest, a massage, a day at an amusement park, comfort foods (in moderation), a night at a comedy club, or a long bath.
  • Exercise. Exercise is a wonderful way to relieve stress and get away from the telephone. Take a long walk in the park, at the beach, or around your favorite lake. Play a round of golf or tennis, go horseback riding, swim some laps or go fly a kite. Learn a new sport or hobby.
  • Set limits. Finally, don’t be afraid to say “no” to requests for your time. Speak out when you feel taken advantage of by others.

A SPECIAL NOTE TO VICTIMS and THE FINANCIAL HEAD OF HOUSEHOLDS:

Identity theft plays havoc on someone who is financially responsible for others or who is their family’s sole source of financial support. This crime may threaten your credit rating, your ability to get a loan, tenancy or employment. It may even temporarily complicate a number of other issues in your life. However, please know you have not let your family down. You did not cause this to happen. You are an innocent victim.

We find that being honest with other members of the family removes some of the weight from your shoulders. You need to hear them say they don’t blame you. You have enough to deal with in the paperwork alone. Let your loved ones and friends be there for encouragement and support.

FEELINGS ABOUT THE IMPOSTER(S):

Whether you know the imposter or not, you may give a lot of thought to the person behind the act.

If you know the imposter: You may feel more pronounced feelings of betrayal, especially if the person was a friend or family member. It may be very difficult to turn this person in to the authorities. The decisions you now make have many ramifications, for you and for those who know both you and the imposter. You might want to seek counseling, either to help you make your decision or live with its consequences. Please refer to our ITRC Fact Sheet FS 115 – When you Personally Know the Identity Thief.

If the imposter is unknown: Victims often report a feeling of insecurity, wondering if the person standing next to them in the market or walking past them on the street may be the imposter. They may distrust everyone, feeling tremendously vulnerable. In order to function, it’s important to focus on the crime and not the criminal.

To everyone: Although you may wish the criminal be brought to justice, the reality is that this may not occur. The primary goal is making sure that your identity is cleared.

MOVING INTO ACTIVISM:

Becoming active in a program that assists others is a step toward recovering from the emotional impact from this crime. Some crime victims find that by assisting others, and moving from their personal experience into a broader world, they begin the healing process. This might include: increasing public awareness, increasing corporate awareness, helping to increase understanding of this crime with law enforcement, or getting involved in community volunteer policing programs.

SHOULD YOU CONSIDER PROFESSIONAL HELP? *

Without intervention, some victims can become so chronically dysfunctional that they are unable to cope any longer. They may be severely depressed – some symptoms are exhaustion, overeating, anxiety, drinking, forgetfulness, or an unwillingness to leave home or their bed.

Don’t wait until you feel lost at the bottom of a pit. Even if you don’t feel overwhelmed, talking to a trained professional who specializes in crime victims can be very beneficial. This could be a religious leader (i.e., minister, rabbi), a licensed counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Getting help should never be considered a sign of weakness. You are going through a very stressful time and need to talk about your feelings.

The following is a partial resource list for those who may not be financially able to afford a private therapist themselves or who may need the name of a good therapy program. We also recommend you look in the front of your local phonebook under Crisis Intervention, Counseling and Mental Health.

  • Local religious leader- your pastor, rabbi or minister
  • Family Service Association
  • YMCA Family Stress Counseling Services
  • Your county Mental Health Association
  • Senior Citizens: The Agency on Aging and Independence and AARP has referral programs.
  • Many professional counseling associations refer clients to free or reduced cost programs.
  • Local hospitals often maintain lists of both governmental and non-profit assistance programs. Some sponsor clinics and support programs. Talk with the mental health department.
  • Many businesses have an employee assistance program. You may want to talk with your HR representative to find out about availability.
  • NOVA- the National Organization of Victim Assistance has a web site (http://www.try-nova.org/) and can be contacted for referrals of victim assistance professionals in your area.
  • If you are concerned about restarting a negative habit such as smoking or excessive drinking again, seek help from one of the groups that you worked with before.

CLINICAL SYMPTOMS OF CRIME VICTIMS:

Many victims compare identity theft to rape, others to a cancer invading their lives. Many of the symptoms and reactions to identity theft victimization parallel those of violent crime. The following information is provided for your enlightenment and, perhaps, to reassure victims that what they are experiencing is not abnormal. The reaction to identity theft can run the full spectrum from mild to severe. Clearly, the complexity of the crime itself will also define the severity of the impact, as will any other traumatic events that may occur around that same time frame.

Impact: The moment of discovery.

  • Can last from 2 hours to several days.
  • Reactions include shock, disbelief, denial, inappropriate laughter, feeling defiled or dirty, shame or embarrassment.

Recoil:

  • Can last for several weeks or months, especially as other instances of theft are uncovered.
  • Physical and psychological symptoms may include: heart palpitations, chest discomfort, breathing difficulties (i.e., shortness of breath, hyperventilation), dizziness, clumsiness, sweating, hot and cold flashes, elevated blood pressure, feeling jumpy or jittery, shaking, diarrhea, easily fatigued, muscle aches, dry mouth, lump in throat, pallor, heightened sensory awareness, headaches, skin rashes, nausea, sexual dysfunction, sleep disturbance.
  • It is not uncommon for victims to frequently search through events trying to pinpoint what they did to contribute to this crime.
  • Anger, rage, tearfulness, overwhelming sadness, loss of sense of humor, an inability to concentrate, hyper-protectiveness, and a deep need to withdraw are all part of the psychological reactions to identity theft.
  • You may misplace anger on others, especially loved ones causing family discord. Those who tend to lean on unhealthy habits such as under or overeating, smoking, alcohol or drugs may be drawn to those addictions for comfort.
  • During recoil, victims may experience a sensation of grief. They may grieve the loss of: financial security, sense of fairness, trust in the media, trust in people/humankind and society, trust in law enforcement and criminal justice systems, trust in employer (especially in workplace identity theft), trust in caregivers and loved ones, faith, family equilibrium, sense of invulnerability and sense of safety, hopes/dream and aspirations for the future.
  • At one point or another, almost all victims will also grieve a loss of innocence, sense of control, sense of empowerment, sense of self and identity, and sense of self-worth.

Equilibrium/Balance/Recovery:

  • In identity theft, this phase may come as early as several weeks after the crime and for others may take months or years. It usually depends on how quickly the actions of the imposter are resolved and cleared up.
  • For all victims, achieving balance and entering recovery will take awareness and purposeful thought.

* Dr. Charles E. Nelson, Ph.D is a psychologist and the director of the Crime and Trauma Recovery Program in San Diego, CA. This program has worked with crime victims and those who love them since 1976. Victims who wish to contact him directly may reach him at (858) 546-9255.

 

This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

ITRC Fact Sheet 107
Requests Victims May Make of the Court
In an attempt to make you whole again: legally and financially

This guide covers:

Most identity theft cases do not result in the perpetrator being arrested and convicted. In many ways, these cases are in uncharted territory. Oftentimes, there is no one to turn to, no one to ask about procedures or to help guide you through the legal maze. It is important to communicate with the district attorney assigned to your case.

Along with the district attorney, you need to put a face to this crime, to show it in living color. It is your responsibility to educate the judge about your needs and how this crime affected your life, from the time of discovery to that day in court.

Most of these requests (listed below) will be made during the Sentencing Phase of your case. Please note: a judge may or may not listen. The judge has the final word. However, if you don’t try, you’ll never know if the judge agrees with you.

You might also refer to our ITRC Fact Sheet FS 106 - Organizing Your Identity Theft Case.

VICTIM ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS

Many District Attorney Offices have a victim assistance program. Ask to speak to a victim assistance counselor to help you prepare yourself for the various stages of the prosecution, hearings, requests for restitution, probation interviews, hearings, etc. Each court and jurisdiction is different and often the district attorney doesn’t have time to help you. You can also read through the basic process in ITRC Fact Sheet FS 109 - The Court Experience.

Make sure that you get all the pamphlets and procedures in writing so that you understand what is expected of you as a victim and witness. Keep a very detailed file of the information since this process may go on for many months. 

RESTITUTION

Restitution is paid to the victim(s) when the court orders the defendant to pay a certain amount of money to his or her victims to reimburse them for their losses. While some judges are reluctant to order restitution, they are required to listen to your request and will usually consider reasonable and unavoidable costs.

We suggest that you write a letter asking for restitution. You may use ITRC Fact Sheet FS 111 - Victim Impact Statements.

Clearly explain:

  • What happened to you as a victim; a summary of the case.
  • The impact financially, emotionally and physically.
  • The actual losses- out-of-pocket expenses, hourly wages lost, doctor and therapy bills, etc. You may want to use ITRC Fact Sheet FS 106 as a guide for this section.

In all cases, you must keep receipts of legitimate costs. You should also keep a detailed log of all time spent on clearing your name (time spent, what you were working on, who you called, etc.). You should also try to estimate projected future costs, anticipating reasonable expenses you will incur in clearing your case.

We also recommend that you look at our ITRC Fact Sheet FS 109 - The Court Experience and ITRC Fact Sheet FS 111 - Victim Impact Statements to see examples of how to add requests to your statement. Do not present a long laundry list to the judge. Be selective in what you request and be brief in your presentation. Remember, be respectful of the judge’s time and be courteous.

The judge has the discretion to determine which, if any, items will be considered for restitution. However here are some suggested items for inclusion:

  • Travel
  • Notarizing
  • Postage- to mail letters pertaining to your case to credit bureaus, credit card companies, banks, merchants, loan officers, etc. This really adds up, since many the letters are mailed “return receipt requested.”
  • Phone calls – track who you talked with and why. Make a photocopy of your phone bill and keep that in a file.
  • Document photocopying
  • Fingerprinting fees
  • Costs incurred to replace identifying documents – for instance, to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a new driver’s license.
  • Legal and private investigator fees – only if you can prove that you had no choice in your attempt to clear your name
  • Business supplies – be careful to limit these costs to items used exclusively in your identity theft case. Your new computer will not impress the judge nor will any supplies that can be used for other activities.
  • Time lost. This is a touchy category for many judges. However, if you can clearly show loss they might consider it. Your log will come in handy here. Include time loss from work to clear your name and time you needed to spend in court as a witness.
  • Doctor’s bills and costs for prescription incurred only because of this crime.
  • Psychological counseling - In many cases, the imposters truly do not understand how they harm you, your children, and others. After all, they were only “borrowing” your identity. This crime has significant impact upon victims, and as a victim, you should not be afraid to request professional counseling.
  • Lost application fees if turned down for loans or credit because of this crime.
  • The future cost of credit monitoring services

CREDIT REPORT MONITORING

For a period of time after the initial victimization, you are entitled to get your credit reports without cost to clean up the credit mess and monitor the new inquiries. That varies depending on state laws and credit reporting agency policies. After that time, be sure to continue to keep an eye on your reports, checking them once every few months.

Identity theft criminals tend to be repeat offenders. Victims often say that while their perpetrators got off with 3 years of probation, they are servicing a life sentence. It is true that victims live with the fact that the imposter may reuse the information at any time. They might also sell it repeatedly for others to use.

So, the question arises, how do you monitor your credit reports as effectively as possible? Some people prefer to subscribe to a Credit Monitoring Service. There are several currently in the United States. We recommend the ANNUAL CREDIT REPORT PROGRAM - a free program provided by federal law. If you call 877-322-8228, you can order one credit report from each of the three bureaus every 12 months. By staggering your requests you can keep an eye on your credit for FREE.

In many states, victims may freeze their credit reports to prevent unwanted credit issuers from viewing them. For more information on this process, please see our ITRC Fact Sheet FS 124 - Credit Freeze and Fraud Alerts. Also, please check our State Resources to see if your state has laws regarding fraud and credit freezes.

IDENTITY MONITORING SERVICES

These new services go beyond traditional credit monitoring by including additional areas where fraudulent activity may be indicated. In some cases, these may be more proactive in alerting you to fraudulent activity in real time. Each service is slightly different. Additional areas may include:

  • monitoring for items such as address changes
  • identifying unusual personal activity (such as applying for several lines of credit with auto dealers in the same week)
  • scanning the Internet for exposed account information
  • screening for other items that may indicate something is awry.

Some companies calculate identity risk by looking for any suspicious or unusual relationships among billions of basic identity elements. Others include credit monitoring and some of the additional items mentioned above. Look for a service that notifies you quickly of any developing problem. 

WRITTEN LETTER OF CLEARANCE

If the imposter has used your name as an alias while committing a crime or if you have difficulties proving you are you -- one of the tools you can request from the courts is a “Letter of Clearance”. It is known by various names so ask the district attorney or sheriff in your area for the precise title. Essentially, this is an official document from the court establishing your that you were a victim of identity theft.

You will need to carry this form with you for years to come so make numerous copies of it. We also suggest you give a copy of it to a family member or close friend in the event you misplace the copy you carry on your person and you need it in an emergency. This document will save you countless embarrassing moments and potential visits to the local jail.

If you are a victim of this type of “criminal identity theft,” please read ITRC Fact Sheet FS 110.

OTHER ITEMS TO CONSIDER REQUESTING

  • That all documents containing your personal data currently in the possession of the imposter shall be returned to you or that you receive written notice from the court that either the court or law enforcement has possession of them and that they were properly destroyed. You have the right to make sure the imposter does not just throw them in the trash, making them available for dumpster divers to take.
  • Anti-theft counseling or psychological counseling– we know that ID thieves are often repeat offenders. Once they learn how easy it is to steal an identity, the temptation may be more than they can fight. Other circumstances in their lives may lead them to committing identity theft and can benefit from counseling.
  • Regular review hearings/probation – ITRC believes this is one of the most important tools we have. Most often ID thieves just receive probation. With probation officers handling an abundance of cases, Review Hearings become a way for the courts to regularly check in on the probation and make sure the imposter is following all court mandates.
  • We recommend you request that a review hearing occur 6 months after sentencing.
  • That the imposter may never, from this day forth, have any personal information about you in their possession—electronically or on paper.
  • That the imposter must give written letter to anyone that they may be collecting personal data from that he/she is a convicted felon of (penal code—i.e., false personation). This letter serves as warning to potential victims. If they choose to ignore it, at least you have made sure that they were warned.

This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

ITRC Fact Sheet 105
Effective Communications: Making Allies and Getting Results
A Tool for Identity Theft Victims

This guide covers the following topics:

Over the years, the ITRC has developed strong, working relationships with law enforcement, governmental agencies and businesses. In doing so, we have drawn upon some well-documented laws of effective communication. They aren’t difficult, and anyone can use them effectively.

STRATEGIZE:

Organize your thoughts prior to any conversation. Identity theft cases can be complicated. ITRC Fact Sheet FS 112 - Enhancing Identity Theft Victim and Investigator Communications will help you to be succinct and focused. Write down what points you want to cover and what you want to accomplish.

  • Prioritize your goals. If you have more than one, limit the issues so that you don’t dilute your efforts. Make sure your listener understands that you have several issues and the order of their importance. Otherwise, they may deal with the little, easy-to-fix items and ignore the bigger ones.
  • Have a fallback position. You may not always get exactly what they want. What will you settle for? What is your bottom line? You don’t need to reveal it to the listener; just keep it in mind as he or she offers possible resolutions to your problem.
  • Analyze your listener’s priorities and situation. What resistances, limitations or predispositions might they have? What will they need to hear from you to conclude that what you are saying is true?
  • Speak only with decision makers. If the person you are speaking with cannot help, respectfully ask for someone who can. 

MAKING ALLIES:

Anger never works; people stop listening. You want to engage this person and convert him or her into an ally. If you are angry, delay your call until you can redirect your anger into positive, calm and effective communication. Be someone who acknowledges any attempt to help you. A “thank you” goes a long ways toward winning allies.

  • A conversation that just blows off steam only causes resentment and alienates your listener. This will also hurt future relationships with that person.
  • Only share what they need to know to solve your problem. People will likely stop listening and be less helpful if you talk about things not directly related to your issue.
  • Try to anticipate what the person will need from you and have it ready.
  • Allow the person you are speaking an opportunity to answer a question that you ask. This ensures that you are actually getting answers to your questions and that you do not interrupt them with another question or observation, which may irritate them and make them less helpful.
  • If you ask a question, don’t accept an answer that doesn’t answer the question, or that is an answer you don’t understand. Acknowledge their answer (confirming you heard them), then ask your question again. For example:

You - “I have a problem. You are trying to collect money on an account I never opened. How do I remove my name from an account opened fraudulently in my name?”
Them - “We just want to know how soon you plan to pay up.”
You - “I understand that you normally deal with people who haven’t paid their bills. My case is different. This is a case of identity theft. I didn’t open this account. How do I remove my name from this account?”

INFLUENCING CHANGE:

  • Develop a relationship. Be respectful. Try to work with whoever is helping you and allow them to understand what you are dealing with. For example, when speaking with a credit issuer representative you can say, “The collection agency said that your company has to clear me. I spoke with one of your customer-service reps, and she said the collection agency has to do it. I’m caught in the middle here. I didn’t open the account and I can’t find the right person to help me. Can you help me sort out this mess?”
  • Don’t be an obstructionist. A conversation isn’t a conversation without an exchange of information and cooperation from both parties.
  • Recognize the limitations of the situation. In most cases of identity theft, determining who the criminal is and having that person arrested is unlikely. Be realistic in setting your goals by sticking to clearing the fraudulent accounts and restoring your identity first and worrying about the criminal after.

 

This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 ITRC Fact Sheet 104
My Wallet, Purse or PDA was Lost or Stolen - Now what?

This guide covers the following:

While a lost or stolen wallet or PDA may simply mean the loss of your cash and credit cards, it may also be the beginning of an identity theft case. Hope for the best while taking steps to reduce your risk of identity theft. The return of the item does not guarantee that cards were not copied, so you need to proceed as if the items were stolen.
 
This guide will serve as a starting point of what to do and whom to call. If the situation evolves into identity theft, please refer to our other self-help guides or contact our office toll-free at 888-400-5530.

What was in your wallet and/or purse?

The following is a list of items that may be in your wallet or purse that can lead to identity theft or other forms of fraud if stolen.

  • Your Social Security card
  • Military ID card
  • Medicare or MediCal card 
  • Social Security cards (or numbers) for any other family members, i.e. spouse, children
  • Social Security number (SSN) printed on any card
  • Driver’s license
  • Credit cards
  • Vehicle registration papers
  • ATM/ Debit cards/ Bank cards
  • Health insurance/prescription/dental benefit card - Did it have your SSN on it?
  • Professional licenses (doctor, nurse, etc.)
  • Employee or student ID card - Did it have your SSN on it?
  • Green card or immigration papers
  • Passport
  • Any bills/statements you may have been carrying (i.e., telephone, electricity, credit card)
  • Birth certificate
  • Store club cards (supermarket, Sam’s Club, Costco)
  • AAA or other auto insurance card
  • Library card
  • Video store card - (i.e. Blockbuster)
  • Health club card - Did it have your SSN on it?
  • Discount cards or annual passes (movie, amusement parks)


What other information was on your cell phone, tablet, or laptop?

  • Any numbers or codes from the items above
  • Addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and birthdates for friends, family, or business associates (some of these could lead to identity theft)
  • Codes, passwords, authorization information
  • Company proprietary information or intellectual property

Steps to take immediately:

1. Police report: Report the crime/loss to your local law enforcement agency. Give them a list of the items it contained (see above). Request a copy of the report as you might need it later. ITRC also recommends getting the business card or name of the officer who took the report, the report number and a phone number to call if you have additional questions.

2. Credit or Fraud Alerts: Contact the three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs) by telephone, listed below. Use the “Report Fraud” numbers for each CRA (refer to ITRC Solution 3). You will reach an automated system that allows you to provide your phone number. We highly recommend you include a home or cell phone number. See ITRC Fact Sheet 100Financial Identity Theft – the Beginning Steps and ITRC Fact Sheet 124 for information on placing fraud alerts.

- Equifax (800) 525-6285
- Experian (888) 397-3742
- Trans Union: (800) 680-7289
 
Ask for a fraud alert and your free report as a potential victim of identity theft. The CRAs are required to provide you with a complimentary credit report when you place a fraud alert. This report gives you the opportunity to check for any pending credit applications and to verify that all the current information is correct. It becomes an accurate baseline for the fraud alert and may alert you to suspicious activity.
 
In 2 to 3 months you should begin to use the federal annual credit report system, www.annualcreditreport.com (for more information, see ITRC Fact Sheet 125.) If there are problems, please refer to our ITRC Fact Sheet 100 for guidance. If your SSN is being used, you may want to consider a “credit freeze” explained in ITRC Fact Sheet 124.

3. Driver’s License or State ID: If your Driver’s license or vehicle registration was taken, contact the state agency that issues driver’s licenses. Place a stolen/lost card warning on your file. At this time, request a replacement. If you discover that a thief is using your license, you can request a license number change. If your vehicle registration papers are missing, notify your state agency of this as well.
  
4. Credit Cards and Account Documents: If you are missing credit cards or copies of bills, contact the card issuers that issued the stolen/lost card(s). Request replacement cards with new account numbers. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit grantors to furnish copies of any fraudulent transactions for that account. Monitor your mail for collection notices, missing statements or bills. Check bills for evidence of new fraudulent activity and report any problems immediately to credit grantors.  If a problem is discovered, please refer to ITRC Fact Sheet 100.

5. Checks and Checking Account Information If you have lost checking account numbers, savings account numbers, checks, ATM cards, or debit cards, contact the bank immediately and close the account. Open a new account with a new number. Add a password on the account. It sometimes helps to go directly to the local branch and speak face-to-face with a bank manager or fraud investigator. Do not waste time explaining your case to a teller.  Please refer to ITRC Fact Sheet 126 for additional information on checking account takeover and check fraud.

To report fraudulent use of your checks:

  • ChexSystems: (800) 428-9623
  • Certegy: (800) 437-5120   or  (877) 443-7283
  • TeleCheck: (800) 710-9898
  • Checkrite/Global Payments:   (800) 638-4600

Several of these companies do provide a “consumer report.” Order reports from those that do provide them.  They should be free.

Security Alert: ChexSystems and SCAN will let you place a 90-day Security Alert on your consumer report with them.

Phone: 800-513-7125
Or: 888-4-STOLEN

6. Military ID cards: Notify the personnel support detachment (PSD) and your immediate chain of command up to the commanding officer. Apply for a new ID card. In the event that a dependent’s ID card is involved, notify your immediate supervisor, the PSD, and secure a replacement.

7. Green Card or immigration papers: Contact the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), as well as your country’s embassy.

8. Passports: In the case of a lost or stolen passport, it is important to notify the U.S. Department of State immediately and fill out Form DS-64. In the event the passport was issued by another country, notify the issuing country’s embassy. For more information visit http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/lost-stolen.html

9. Workplace theft: If your wallet or PDA was lost or stolen at work, notify both the HR and Security Departments. You might recommend a notice be posted warning other personnel to take additional security precautions. For example, women should not be storing wallets or purses in unlocked, desk drawers.

10. Stolen Social Security Card

Do this every year at the end of January for everybody whose card was stolen:

  • Every year, obtain a copy of your Social Security Statement from the Social Security Administration. This Statement will provide you with a record of annual payments entered into your Social Security account over time. This Statement is available free online. You may use this statement to determine if too much taxable earnings have been reported under your Social Security number, for example: if somebody has gained employment under your information.
    • Go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/ and follow the steps to create an account. This will allow you to download your Social Security Statement. 
    • If you are unable to go online to access this information, you can call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
  • Do not request your Social Security Earnings Statement at this time. There is a fee for this more detailed statement which identifies employers who have paid into your SSA account.  At this time, you want your free Social Security Statement only.
  • Check the earnings section against your yearly W2s. If it is incorrect, file a police report for employment fraud or identity theft. Then read Solution 27 on the ITRC website for further instructions. http://www.idtheftcenter.org/Solutions/sn-27.html

If you are requesting the information on a minor child or a dependent adult please read Solution 27 http://www.idtheftcenter.org/Solutions/sn-27.html

Refer to ITRC Fact Sheet 100A for further information on more complex cases.

To report Social Security fraud: call (800) 269‑0271 or E-mail:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Refer also to the Social Security Administration’s website: www.ssa.gov

11: Stolen Smart Phone:

Call your service provider and have them cancel your service and report your phone missing. Treat the loss of your smartphone as you would the loss of a wallet or purse.  

  • Itemize what information was stored on your phone and what websites could be accessed. This includes your bank accounts, online purchases, digital wallet, etc.
  • Proceed to secure these accounts just as you would if actual credit cards or account information had been stolen.
  • If you have enrolled in a backup / wiping program, contact the administrator of your program and have them “wipe” your phone.

12: Birth Certificate

Notify the issuing county recorder’s office of the loss. In the future, do not carry this on your person unless needed that day.

13: Health insurance: Notify the medical insurance carrier immediately. Request a replacement policy number.

14: Auto insurance/AAA: Notify the insurance company immediately. You don’t want someone using your information in the event of an accident. Request a replacement policy number.

Other Items:

  • Discount or annual passes: Notify the issuing business and see if they have a replacement policy.  
  • Library and video store cards: Contact the issuing company/agency. Ask for that account to be closed and another opened with a replacement number. You may also want to add a password to the new account.
  • All other cards with a membership or identification number printed on the card (SSN or another number): Contact the issuing company, school, or employer. Notify them of the loss and request a replacement card with a new account number. In the event that the SSN was the membership number, request that an alternate number be used or that a letter be added to the membership number. This will help to separate your usage from that of the thief.
  • Renewable long distance calling cards: Contact the company. Request that they transfer any remaining minutes to another card with a new account number. Close the account to the card.

Tips for Dealing with the Authorities and Financial Institutions:

  • Keep a log of all conversations, receipts for expenses, and other pertinent items. See ITRC Fact Sheet 106 - Organizing Your Case.
  • Request a written verification that accounts have been closed (including time and date), and/or a confirmation number.
  • Send correspondence by certified mail, return receipt requested.
  • Keep copies of all letters and documents that you send and receive.
  • Whenever possible, speak with a fraud investigator and not a customer-service representative. If you are not satisfied with the answers given, request to speak with a supervisor. Keep going up the chain of command until you reach a decision-maker.
  • Add passwords to bank, utility and credit accounts. A strong password should be more than 8 characters in length, and contain both capital letters and at least one numeric or other non-alphabetical character.  Use of non-dictionary words is also advised.

Preventative Tips:

  • Photocopy the front and back of all important cards you carry including credit cards. Keep original documents in a locked box. 
  • PDAs: Use password protection so that if your PDA is turned on by an unauthorized user only a log-in screen will appear. Add instructions on how to contact you to return the device. Most password products range in features and price ($10-$30). Some of the more full-featured products offer data encryption, while others simply offer a password on startup, leaving the data in the device unencrypted. You should also keep a backup of the data on your PDA to use as a starting inventory should it be lost. Additionally, some smart phones have a “remote wipe” ability, allowing you to delete all information off your phone in the event that you lose it. 
  • Close credit card accounts you don’t use any longer. If you haven’t used a card for at least 6 months, you probably don’t need it. Only carry one or two cards on a daily basis. 
  • Purses with shoulder straps should be tucked under an arm. Make sure that your purse is in your line of vision. Book bags and carry-alls that hang over your back, out of sight, are easy targets. 
  • For men and women: Use a fanny pack to store your wallet and valuables when you know you will be in large crowds. Place the pack so that it is in front of your body and always in your line of vision. Any fanny pack used should have a cable in the strap and reinforced bottom to prevent slicing, plus additional inside zippers to keep things compartmentalized.  

This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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