Next steps if you’re a victim of identity theft in the US

Government guidance can help you restore your credit report

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Identity theft can be traumatic if you happen to be a victim, but thankfully there are plenty of steps you can take to help minimize damage after the event. The US government has various helpful options that allow you to tackle the fallout from an identity theft incident. In the meantime, it's also a good idea to consider investing in one of the best identity theft protection packages available.

One of the best official places to garner advice on implementing post-identity theft measures is, which has lots of up-to-date information on all aspects of this relatively common crime. In addition, you'll find that the site includes a wealth of information that will help you produce a personal recovery plan, update it as you progress, and track the steps involved in getting your credit report back in order.

The other benefit of using an official advice site like this is to use the various pre-filled letters and forms you'll need to use. These can subsequently be sent to credit bureaus, businesses, and debt collectors, all of whom might need to be contacted following an identity theft incident. You'll also get a quick route towards reporting the incident to the Federal Trade Commission.

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Making moves

It goes without saying that if you’re affected by identity theft, you’ll want to take action as soon as possible. First, if you know who might be implicated, call the companies where the fraud occurred and explain that you’ve been the victim of ID theft. From there, close or freeze any accounts, which at least means you should be able to prevent criminals from racking up any additional costs or charges.

If you’ve got logins and passwords for any accounts, then be sure to take time changing all of these so that you can be certain criminals aren’t able to access any accounts in the future. It might be an idea to invest in a decent password manager package at this point if you don’t already have one. These are ideal for updating passwords and other login details quickly and securely.


(Image credit: Future)

Mitigation checklist

Another task in your identity theft fraud mitigation checklist needs to include placing a fraud alert, which can be done by contacting one of the three main credit bureaus. Get in touch with Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax and ask them to produce a fraud alert. You only need to tell one, and they will contact the other two. The bureaus will send you a follow-up letter confirming that a fraud alert has been placed on your credit file.

Getting a free credit report to inspect and locate any potential issues is also possible. If you visit, this has the provision for getting your credit report without any costs involved. Once you have the report, make sure you take the time to go through it, note any unusual activity contained within it, and record anything that stands out as not being something you’ve instigated.

Report to the FTC

You’ll need to work with the FTC after visiting or calling 1-877-438-4338 to give them as many details as possible. From there, they can help you create an account and develop a recovery program. Having an Identity Theft Report is crucial because it will guarantee you specific rights. In addition, you can file a report with your local police department and give them a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report will help with the process.

Following these steps, you’ll be able to move to the process of damage limitation, which might well involve a lot of effort, although your Identity Theft Report will certainly help smooth the process. For example, if you contact businesses and explain that your identity was stolen, they may request a copy of the report to take the steps involved with restoring your account details.


(Image credit: Future)

Minimizing damage

If criminal activity has occurred, you’ll need to contact the fraud departments of any businesses involved and ask them to remove any bogus charges. You’ll also need to write to the credit bureaus to correct your credit report. This will require you to submit a copy of the Identity Theft Report, proof of your identity, and details of what needs to be amended.

This can be blocked if there is fraudulent information on your credit report. This means that if you have given the credit bureaus the requested information, any fraudulent information on your credit report will not show up. It will also prevent companies from trying to collect the debt from you. So while this does involve effort on your behalf, it will make a big difference in putting your credit report back to where it was before you became the victim of identity theft.

Another step you can take is to consider adding an extended fraud alert or credit freeze. By doing this, you should be able to stop any other misuse of your data, although you’ll need to compare the difference between the two options to check which option will be best suited to your needs.

Identity theft

Remember that identity theft should not be ignored as it means that somebody is using your personal or financial information for criminal reasons. This could include filing taxes, making purchases, or getting benefits, to name but three examples. On top of that, identity theft doesn't always mean it will affect just you, as criminals are also known to carry out child identity theft and target seniors in their exploits.

Moving forward, it's a good idea to invest in an identity theft protection package, which will allow you to monitor aspects of your data more quickly. This can include keeping tabs on credit reports and locking down your data more effectively. On top of that, if you've yet to get an internet security suite and anti-virus package, then now is the time to do that too.

Bryan M Wolfe

Bryan M. Wolfe is a staff writer at TechRadar, iMore, and wherever Future can use him. Though his passion is Apple-based products, he doesn't have a problem using Windows and Android. Bryan's a single father of a 15-year-old daughter and a puppy, Isabelle. Thanks for reading!