What if Identity Theft
Prevention Doesn't Work?
Identity theft prevention measures aren't foolproof. Even if you take
every possible step to protect your identity — credit monitoring, document
shredding, computer safeguards, personal vigilance, everything — you can still
have your identity stolen.
Maybe it was that credit card receipt you lost. Maybe it had something to do
with your brother-in-law's rummaging through your den on his last visit. Maybe
it was connected to that recent theft of personal information from your bank's
database. Whatever the cause might be, your identity theft prevention system
failed, and your identity has been stolen. Now what?
Steps to Take When Identity Theft Prevention Doesn't
1. Your first step when your identity theft prevention efforts fail is to
notify the fraud unit at one of the credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and
TransUnion — that your identity has been stolen. (Once one credit bureau has
been notified, it will contact the other two for you.) Ask the bureau to place
a fraud alert on your file and to let creditors know that they need to call you
before they extend credit in your name.
The contact information for the three credit bureaus is as follows:
2 Baldwin Place, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022
Report fraud: Call 800-680-7289, and write to the address above. TDD:
E-mail (fraud victims only): firstname.lastname@example.org Web:
P.O. Box 70241 Atlanta, GA 30374
Report fraud: Call 800-525-6285, and write to the address above. TDD:
Experian P.O. Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013 Report fraud: Call 888-397-3742, and write to the
TDD: Use relay to fraud number above. Web:
2. Next, write to each of the bureaus immediately via certified, return-receipt
mail to request a free copy of your credit report and an extension of the fraud
alert to seven years. (Fraud alerts are a vital tool in identity theft
prevention. To receive a seven-year extension, you'll need to include a police
report of the identity theft with your correspondence. You can cancel the fraud
alert at any time). Go through each of your credit reports with a fine-toothed
comb, noting each and every fraudulent account and any other inaccurate
information. Report everything you find in writing to the credit bureaus as
well as to any and all creditors involved in the fraudulent transactions. (The
credit reports will come with instructions on how to do so. You can also find a
sample dispute letter at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website,
3. Close any and all accounts found in your credit reports that point to
identity fraud. Call the institutions involved, then follow up with written
correspondence via certified, return-receipt mail. Include copies of all
documents that point to the illegal activities (keep the originals in a bank
safe deposit box or other secure area).
4. File a police report with the police department in your town or in the town
or city where the identity theft occurred. Be sure to pick up a copy of the
police report or at least the number of the report, which can help substantiate
your claim of identity theft in the eyes of your creditors.
5. Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC gathers
information to help local and federal law enforcement officials in their
identity theft prevention efforts, and the agency can refer your complaints to
other government agencies and companies for further action.
To file a complaint online, visit
. You can also call the FTC's Identity Theft
Hotline toll-free at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338) or, for TTY access, at
1-866-653-4261. You can also file your complaint by writing to Identity Theft
Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20580.
If you come across any additional information or problems related to your
identity, be sure to call the Identity Theft Hotline to update your complaint.
6. Look into services designed to help you restore your identity. Identity
restoration can be a long, involved process. You may want to use an Identity
Restoration Service to guide you through the entire process. They'll
investigate your specific case, look for other signs of identity theft
committed in your name, and help you file the proper paperwork and take the
necessary steps to address the damage that's likely been done to your credit
The FTC is continually working to find additional, proactive steps for identity
theft prevention. Be sure to visit the FTC website at
information about restoring your identity and about identity theft prevention.