Recovering from Identity Theft

Identity theft in this digital age has become an increasingly prevalent and sophisticated crime, leaving countless individuals dealing with the aftermath of stolen personal information. If you find yourself a victim of identity theft, it’s critical to take immediate and decisive action to minimize the damage and reclaim control over your identity.

Stay calm and act swiftly. Discovering your identity has been stolen can be an overwhelming experience. However, it’s crucial to stay calm and act swiftly to mitigate potential damages. The faster you respond, the better chance you have of minimizing the impact of identity theft on your financial well-being and personal life.

Confirm the theft. How can you tell if you’ve been a victim of identity theft? It’s important to confirm that your identity has indeed been stolen by checking your bank and credit card accounts online to see if you notice any unauthorized transactions or unfamiliar accounts. These could be your red flags indicating identity theft. If you’re receiving emails stating someone has been trying to access your accounts, this could also be a sign. Change those passwords immediately.

Contact your bank and credit card companies. Safeguard who has access to your accounts. For example, change your personal pin numbers (PINs), place stop payments on any missing checks, change your online banking passwords, and if appropriate, open a new checking account. Make sure the bank or card issuer is aware of every account and/or card that is affected, including ATM cards, check/debit cards, and credit cards. Customer service telephone numbers can generally be found on the back of your cards, on the statements, or on their website.

Notifying all your existing account holders immediately to inform them of your victimization may help reduce further fraudulent activities.

Contact the credit bureaus. Contact one of the major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion – and request to place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This alert signals to creditors that they should take extra precautions to verify your identity before extending credit. By placing an initial fraud alert, you are entitled to a free credit report from each bureau, which you should thoroughly review for any suspicious activities. Once you request this from one of the bureaus, they’ll forward your request to the other two bureaus. A fraud alert may slow down your approval process should you seek new credit, but it helps protect you from fraud. A fraud alert notifies potential credit grantors to verify your identification before extending credit in your name.







Check your credit report. By law, you can get a free copy of your credit report each year from the three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Contact one and request a copy of your credit report. In most cases, fraudulent activity can be detected by reviewing the accounts, inquiries, and addresses that appear on a credit report. Review your report carefully for the following items:

  • Accounts: If you do not recognize an account and the account is newly opened, that may indicate that a criminal has obtained a line of credit using your identity.
  • Inquiries: Review all the inquiries on your credit report in the section titled “Requests viewed by others.” This section contains inquiries from creditors that have accessed your credit report to process an application. If you do not recognize the credit grantor accessing your report, that may indicate fraudulent activity.
  • Addresses: Review the addresses appearing on your credit report. If you discover an address that you do not recognize, it may indicate that the address was used on a fraudulent application for credit.

Contact law enforcement. As soon as you confirm identity theft, report the incident to your local law enforcement agency. Call their non-emergency number for your local police department and explain what has happened. They can tell you what information you need to provide. While law enforcement agencies may not always be able to immediately resolve the issue, having an official record of the incident is crucial for your case. The police report will be helpful when clarifying to creditors that you are a victim of identity theft.

Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through their website or by calling their Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338). The FTC provides valuable resources and tools to help you navigate the aftermath of identity theft such as easy-to-print checklists and sample letters that you may need. Also, your complaint contributes to a nationwide database that assists law enforcement agencies in their investigations. To report fraud, scams, or bad business practices, visit

Misused Social Security number. If your Social Security card was lost or stolen, you can apply online at for a new one. You’ll still want to report a stolen Social Security number to the FTC. You can review your work history by creating an account a and should you find any errors, you can contact your local SSA office to get that cleared up.

Driver’s License and Passport. Don’t forget about these! If they were lost or stolen, you’ll want to reach out to your local DMV branch or State Department and get these replaced immediately, especially if you’re planning on traveling with your passport in the next few weeks.

Close fraudulent accounts. If you discover an account has been fraudulently opened under your name, it is in your best interest to contact those businesses and let them know you were a victim of fraud. Contacting them directly may help you resolve any fraudulent information in your credit report more efficiently.

Change your passwords. It may be prudent to change all your online passwords. It can be a painstaking task but often times we don’t know how the thief or thieves got our information. Start with changing your passwords to your email and social media accounts.

Check for stolen mail. Make sure no one has requested an unauthorized address change, title change, PIN change, or ordered new cards or checks to be sent to another address. If a thief has stolen your mail to get credit cards, bank statements, prescreened credit offers, or tax information, or if an identity thief has falsified change-of-address forms, that’s a crime. Contact your local post office and police.

Document everything. Keep a detailed record of all communications, transactions, and actions taken in response to the identity theft. This documentation can serve as crucial evidence in case of legal proceedings or disputes with creditors. Maintain a file that includes copies of police reports, correspondence with financial institutions, and any other relevant information.

Vigilance is key. Becoming a victim of identity theft can be a harrowing experience, but taking swift and decisive action can help mitigate the damages and restore your sense of control. Ongoing monitoring and proactive measures will play a crucial role in preventing further incidents and securing your identity in the long run.