It’s unpleasant to find out that someone stole your credit card numbers, but it’s even worse when a collection agency begins harassing you over debt you didn’t create. CreditCards.com has assembled sample letters and a step-by-step guide to help identity theft victims clear their names and protect their credit.
Here are the initial steps to take when you believe you are a victim of identity theft:
- File a police report and provide as much evidence as possible. Keep a copy of the report; you will need it in some of the following steps to prove you are a victim.
- Notify the credit bureaus and place fraud alerts on your credit reports; this requires creditors to call you and get your approval before granting any new credit. After you place an initial fraud alert (see sample letter one), it will remain active for 90 days. You must place an extended fraud alert (see sample letter two) if you want it to remain active after that period.
- You can freeze your credit instead of placing a fraud alert (see sample letter three), which will stop access to your credit altogether.
- If your credit card accounts have been compromised, call your issuers and ask them to cancel your existing cards and issue new ones. If you have automatic payments set up with any merchants, notify them of your new card numbers. Under law, the most you will be liable for is $50, though many issuers have $0 liability for cardholders.
- If your debit or ATM cards have been compromised, call your bank and ask them to cancel the existing cards and issue you new ones. If you have automatic payments set up with any merchants, notify them of your new card numbers. If you do not report the fraud for debit cards quickly, you may be held liable for the loss.
- Fill out the FTC’s Identity Theft Affidavit form if a new account was opened in your name. This form is accepted by some businesses and creditors as a means to ensure you do not become responsible for debts you did not create.
- If you are contacted by a collection agency about debt that was incurred in your name without your consent, notify them (see sample letter four) that you are an identity theft victim and are not responsible for that account.
- If your identity was taken through the theft of your wallet, there are additional steps involved, including getting a new driver’s license and replacing all your membership cards. Use this checklist to guide you through those processes.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The commission will not investigate your case but will pass along your information to law enforcement officials and government agencies nationwide; this helps them observe criminal patterns and fight identity theft.
- Consider using a credit monitoring service so you can be notified when someone applies for credit in your name. You are not asked approval; you are just notified about credit changes after they happen.
- Closely examine all your bank statements and credit reports (which you are entitled to for free as an identity theft victim) in the following months to ensure there is no additional fraudulent activity.
Identity theft sample letters
CreditCards.com has assembled the following sample letters to help identity theft victims clear their names and protect their credit.
Letter to place an initial fraud alert
This is a letter you should send to one of the credit bureaus if you are concerned that your credit may be threatened due to identity theft. The bureau you send it to is required to notify the other two. You do not have to be a proven identity theft victim. Placing the alert will require creditors to call you for your approval before granting new credit. Fraud alerts are not failsafe because some businesses may neglect to confirm your identity. This initial alert lasts 90 days.
Letter to place an extended fraud alert
If you are a documented identity theft victim and want to extend your fraud alert beyond 90 days, send this letter to one of the credit bureaus; that bureau is required to notify the other two. Be aware that alerts are also not failsafe because some businesses may neglect to confirm your identity. The fraud alert will be in place for seven years but can be temporarily lifted.
Letter to place a credit/security freeze
If your personal information has been compromised and you do not want any new credit to be granted in your name, send this letter to each of the credit bureaus. Once placed, even you cannot open new lines of credit until you remove the freeze, though you can temporarily lift the freeze (in some states you must pay a fee to do so). This offers more protection than a fraud alert.
Letter to stop contact by a collection agency as an identity theft victim When your identity has been stolen, there is a large chance the person who stole your information incurred debt in your name. If you begin receiving calls from debt collectors, send this letter to inform them that the debt was created without your consent and asking them to cease communication.