How to Report Identity Theft: Everything You Should Know
Table of Contents
- By David Lukic
- Feb 22, 2022
With the rise in online crime, there is an increasing need for security measures. This article details what you should do when you’ve become a victim of identity theft. It will describe how to report this crime and also how to prevent any future threats.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is a crime where the perpetrator steals your personal information to commit fraudulent acts. They pretend to be you primarily for financial gain. The criminals may apply for credit cards and loans or even file taxes in your name.
Another common crime includes filing for unemployment insurance. Even if someone has not yet tried to impersonate you, but your information was exposed in a data breach, you should consider reporting it.
How Do You Handle Identity Theft?
It is essential to file a report if you are a victim of identity theft. If more people do so, it could become a deterrent for these criminals. However, calling the police directly may not be the most practical option.
There are also some things to consider before you file a police report. There is no unanimous answer for what is ‘relevant enough’ to warrant a report. However, you will get a better result if you have evidence that someone is impersonating you. For instance, credit card charges that you did not authorize.
File A Report for Identity Theft
There are two ways you can file a report; either with the police or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC has an online portal in which you can make a report.
When to Report identity Theft
It may be a better option to report the ID theft to the police in these specific situations:
- You know who the identity thief is and have their details.
- The thief claimed to be you during an altercation with the police, such as at a roadblock.
- A credit-providing company (or any company) requests you provide a police report.
It usually becomes crucial to get a police report when a lot of money is stolen. However, to recover funds of any amount, it will always be helpful to provide the company with a police report.
Another issue you may face is how criminal activity has negatively affected your credit score. To rectify these issues with the credit bureau, you should have a police report filed and ready to be presented as proof. The following section details how to file a police report for identity theft.
How To Report Identity Theft to the Police
- File your report on the FTC identity theft portal and get a copy of this report.
- Provide photo ID and proof of address.
- Be prepared with evidence to prove you were the victim of identity theft. This can include a paper trail such as credit card statements or communication from the IRS.
How To Report Identity Theft to the FTC
- Visit the FTC identity theft portal and fill out the online forms detailing your experience. If you prefer to, you can phone the FTC directly.
- Receive your specific recovery plan from the FTC.
Reporting Specific ID Theft Crimes
Some types of ID theft crime have specific reporting agencies. For instance, victims can report medical identity theft to Medicare’s fraud office.
You can report tax and unemployment identity theft to the Internal Revenue Service and the state's labor department, respectively.
In case it is unclear:
- Tax identity theft is when a criminal files tax returns impersonating you to claim a refund fraudulently.
- Medical identity theft is when the thief uses your Medicare ID or health insurance member number to get medical care. They may also claim back money by sending fake bills to your health insurer.
- Unemployment identity theft is when the thief uses your details to get unemployment benefits.
Some Important Organizations to Report Identity Theft
According to usa.gov, you can take further action by reporting to the following organizations:
- Retailers (or other companies) - You can report the incident to retailers where the crime took place. You can also notify any company where the thief may have applied for an account or job.
- The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center is an essential organization for the elderly who have become the victims of identity theft. It is precisely for ID theft incidents due to the victim staying in a nursing home or long-term care facility.
- Any of the three major credit reporting agencies should be made aware of incidents of identity theft. You can freeze your credit report or place a fraud alert on it.
What Makes You Vulnerable to Identity Theft
Even if you have been the victim of identity theft in the past, it doesn’t mean you’re now invulnerable. You must discover what caused the criminal to take advantage of the situation. Often it is lost, or stolen identification, some of which include:
- State-issued driver's license or ID.
- Federally issued social security card.
- United States passport.
- Birth certificate.
- Student ID card.
- Military ID.
- Green card.
- Government visa.
- Liquor identification card.
- Voter's registration card.
- Credit and debit cards.
- Professional certifications.
- Automotive insurance cards.
- Health insurance documents.
- License documents.
- Utility bills.
- Deeds of ownership.
- W-2 forms.
- Tax statements.
Consider shredding sensitive documentation when disposing of them. Keep all other sensitive information in a secure safe. Update your mailing address to any company that sends you physical mail.
Better yet, opt to get a soft copy of as much mail as you can. However, make sure you have a strong password on your email and don’t ever leave your profile logged in, open, or unattended.
It’s important to mention the cyber threat associated with identity theft. If your electronics are unsecured and do not have an anti-virus, you will be left vulnerable. Try to use passphrases instead of passwords and become adept at spotting phishing emails.
How To Protect Yourself in the Future
It’s not all doom and gloom. There is a modern solution to this modern problem. You can consistently monitor the internet to see if hackers use your credentials anywhere online. A resource like IDStrong.com can detect if your personal and financial information is traded online.
If you have been compromised in any way, you’ll be alerted, and the team will help you take action. This will give you peace of mind regarding your online presence and activities.
Here are some other tips on how best to protect yourself :
- If someone asks for personal details (even in a casual setting), you can simply refuse to share if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. These details include your date of birth, social security number, or bank account number.
- If you receive bills in the mail and have stopped receiving or missed a few of them, contact the sender and make them aware.
- Keep an eye on your credit card transactions for any irregularities.
- Comb through your credit reports at least once a year and keep an eye out for any accounts you didn’t open yourself.
- Place a hold on your physical mail when you leave your home for an extended period.
As sinister as identity theft is, it’s good to know that you can take actionable steps if you fall prey to this crime. In many instances, the sooner you take legal action, the better. But from a preventative perspective, a monitoring service is your most secure option.