ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen
To Your Good Name
TABLE OF CONTENTS
How Identity Theft Occurs
Minimize Your Risk
- What You Can Do Today
The Doors and Windows are Locked, but...
- Choosing to Share
Personal Information - or Not
- Credit Bureaus
- Departments of Motor Vehicles
- Direct Marketers
- If You're a Victim
- Your First Three Steps
- Credit Accounts
Chart Your Course of Action
- Resolving Credit
- Credit Reports
- Credit Cards
- Debt Collectors
- ATM Cards, Debit Cards and Electronic Fund
- Bank Fraud
Fake Driver's License
Social Security Number Theft and Misuse
- Bank Fraud
Fake Driver's License
Social Security Number Theft and Misuse
- Instructions for Completing the ID Theft
- ID Theft Affidavit 26
In the course of a busy day, you may write
a check at the grocery store, charge tickets to a ball game, rent a car,
mail your tax returns, call home on your cell phone, order new checks or
apply for a credit card. Chances are you don’t give these everyday
transactions a second thought. But someone else may.
The 1990’s spawned a new variety of crooks called identity thieves. Their
stock in trade is your everyday transaction. Each transaction requires you
to share personal information: your bank and credit card account numbers;
your income; your Social Security number (SSN); or your name, address and
phone numbers. An identity thief co-opts some piece of your personal
information and appropriates it without your knowledge to commit fraud or
theft. An all-too-common example is when an identity thief uses your
personal information to open a credit card account in your name.
Identity theft is a serious crime. People whose identities have been
stolen can spend months or years – and thousands of dollars – cleaning up
the mess the thieves have made of their good name and credit record. In
the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans for
education, housing, cars, or even be arrested for crimes they didn’t
commit. Humiliation, anger and frustration are common feelings victims
experience as they navigate the arduous process of reclaiming their
Perhaps you’ve received your first call from a collections agent demanding
payment on a loan you never took out – for a car you never bought. Maybe
you’ve already spent a significant amount of time and money calling
financial institutions, canceling accounts, struggling to regain your good
name and credit. Or maybe your wallet’s been stolen, or you’ve just heard
about identity theft for the first time on the nightly news, and you’d
like to know more about protecting yourself from this devastating crime.
This booklet is for you.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), working with other government agencies
and organizations, has produced this booklet to help you guard against and
recover from identity theft. Can you completely prevent identity theft
from occurring? Probably not, especially if someone is determined to
commit the crime. But you can minimize your risk by managing your personal
information wisely and cautiously.
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, call the FTC’s Identity Theft
Hotline toll-free at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338). Counselors will take your
complaint and advise you on how to deal with the credit-related problems
that could result. In addition, the FTC, in conjunction with banks, credit
grantors and consumer advocates, has developed the ID Theft Affidavit to
help victims of ID theft restore their good names. The ID Theft Affidavit,
a form that can be used to report information to many organizations,
simplifies the process of disputing charges with companies where a new
account was opened in your name. For a copy of the ID Theft Affidavit, see
page 29 or visit the ID Theft Website at
The Hotline and Website give you one place to report the theft to the
federal government and receive helpful information. The FTC puts your
information into a secure consumer fraud database where it can be used to
help other law enforcement agencies and private entities in their
investigations and victim assistance.
IDENTITY THEFT OCCURS
My wallet was stolen in December
1998. There’s been no end to the problems I’ve faced since then. The thieves
used my identity to write checks, use a debit card, open a bank account with
a line of credit, open credit accounts with several stores, obtain cell
phones and run up huge bills, print fraudulent checks on a personal computer
bearing my name, and more. I’ve spent the last two years trying to repair my
credit report (a very frustrating process) and have suffered the ill effects
of having a marred credit history. I’ve recently been denied a student loan
because of inaccurate
information on my credit report.
From a consumer complaint to the FTC, February 22,
your best efforts to manage the flow of your personal information or to keep
it to yourself, skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods - low-
and hi-tech - to gain access to your data. Here are some of the ways
imposters can get your personal information and take over your identity.
identity thieves get your personal information:
They steal wallets and purses containing your identification and credit
and bank cards.
They steal your mail, including your bank
and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, telephone
calling cards and tax information.
They complete a "change of address form" to
divert your mail to another location.
They rummage through your trash, or the
trash of businesses, for personal data in a practice known as "dumpster
They fraudulently obtain your credit report
by posing as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a
legitimate need for — and a legal
right to —
They get your business or personnel records
They find personal information in your
They use personal information you share on
They buy your personal information from
"inside" sources. For example, an identity thief may pay a store
employee for information about you that appears on an application for
goods, services or credit.
identity thieves use your personal information:
They call your credit card issuer and, pretending to be you, ask to
change the mailing address on your credit card account. The imposter
then runs up charges on your account. Because your bills are being sent
to the new address, it may take some time before you realize there's a
They open a new credit card account, using
your name, date of birth and SSN. When they use the credit card and
don't pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit
They establish phone or wireless service in
They open a bank account in your name and
write bad checks on that account.
They file for bankruptcy under your name to
avoid paying debts they've incurred under your name, or to avoid
They counterfeit checks or debit cards, and
drain your bank account.
They buy cars by taking out auto loans in
MINIMIZE YOUR RISK
I’m tired of the hours I’ve spent on the
phone and all the faxing I’ve had to do. When will it be over?
From a consumer
complaint to the FTC, March 13, 2001
Tomorrow is Sunday so we won’t
get any notices, but I’m not looking forward to Monday’s mail.
From a consumer
complaint to the FTC, November 13, 2001
you probably can't prevent identity theft entirely, you can minimize your
risk. By managing your personal information wisely, cautiously and with an
awareness of the issue, you can help guard against identity theft.
What You Can Do
To order your report, call: 1-800-685-1111
or write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
To report fraud, call: 1-800-525-6285
and write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
To order your report, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
or write: P.O. Box 2104, Allen TX 75013
To report fraud, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
and write: P.O. Box 9532, Allen TX 75013
To order your report, call: 800-916-8800
or write: P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022.
To report fraud, call: 1-800-680-7289
and write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA
Place passwords on your
credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available
information like your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four
digits of your SSN or your phone number, or a series of consecutive
numbers. When opening new accounts, you may find that many businesses
still have a line on their applications for your mother’s maiden name. Use
a password instead.
information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside
help or are having service work done in your home.
Ask about information
security procedures in your workplace. Find out who has access to your
personal information and verify that records are kept in a secure
location. Ask about the disposal procedures for those records as well.
Order a copy of your credit report
from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year. By
checking your report on a regular basis you can catch mistakes and
fraud before they wreak havoc on your personal finances. Don’t
underestimate the importance of this step. One of the most common
ways that consumers find out that they’re victims of identity
theft is when they try to make a major purchase, like a house or a
car. The deal can be lost or delayed while the credit report mess
is straightened out. Knowing what’s in your credit report allows
you to fix problems before they jeopardize a major financial
Don’t give out personal information on
the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you’ve
initiated the contact or are sure you know who you’re dealing
with. Identity thieves may pose as representatives of banks,
Internet service providers (ISPs) and even government agencies to
get you to reveal your SSN, mother’s maiden name, account numbers
and other identifying information. Before you share any personal
information, confirm that you are dealing with a legitimate
organization. You can check the organization’s website as many
companies post scam alerts when their name is used improperly, or
you can call customer service using the number listed on your
account statement or in the telephone book.
Guard your mail and trash from
Deposit outgoing mail in post office
collection boxes or at your local post office, rather than in an
unsecured mailbox. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox. If
you’re planning to be away from home and can’t pick up your
mail, call the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 to request
a vacation hold. The Postal Service will hold your mail at your
local post office until you can pick it up or are home to
To thwart an identity thief who may
pick through your trash or recycling bins to capture your
personal information, tear or shred your charge receipts, copies
of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements,
checks and bank statements, expired charge cards that you’re
discarding, and credit offers you get in the mail.
Before revealing any personally
identifying information (for example, on an application), find out
how it will be used and secured, and whether it will be shared
with others. Ask if you have a choice about the use of your
information. Can you choose to have it kept confidential?
Don’t carry your SSN card; leave it in
a secure place.
Give your SSN only when absolutely
necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible. If
your state uses your SSN as your driver’s license number, ask to
substitute another number.
Carry only the identification
information and the number of credit and debit cards that you’ll
Pay attention to your billing cycles.
Follow up with creditors if your bills don’t arrive on time. A
missing credit card bill could mean an identity thief has taken
over your account and changed your billing address to cover his
Be wary of promotional scams. Identity
thieves may use phony offers to get you to give them your personal
Keep your purse or wallet in a safe
place at work.
Special Word About Social Security Numbers
Your employer and financial institution will likely need your SSN
for wage and tax reporting purposes. Other businesses may ask you
for your SSN to do a credit check, like when you apply for a loan,
rent an apartment, or sign up for utilities. Sometimes, however,
they simply want your SSN for general record keeping. You don’t have
to give a business your SSN just because they ask for it. If someone
asks for your SSN, ask the following questions:
Sometimes a business may not provide you with the service or benefit
you’re seeking if you don’t provide your SSN. Getting answers to
these questions will help you decide whether you want to share your
SSN with the business. Remember – the decision is yours.
The Doors and Windows Are Locked, but . . .
You may be careful about locking your
doors and windows, and keeping your personal papers in a secure
place. But, depending on what you use your personal computer for, an
identity thief may not need to set foot in your house to steal your
personal information. SSNs, financial records, tax returns, birth
dates, and bank account numbers may be stored in your computer – a
goldmine to an identity thief. The following tips can help you keep
your computer and your personal information safe.
- Update your virus protection
software regularly, or when a new virus alert is announced.
Computer viruses can have a variety of damaging effects, including
introducing program code that causes your computer to send out
files or other stored information. Be on the alert for security
repairs and patches that you can download from your operating
- Do not download files sent to you
by strangers or click on hyperlinks from people you don’t know.
Opening a file could expose your system to a computer virus or a
program that could hijack your modem.
- Use a firewall program, especially
if you use a high-speed Internet connection like cable, DSL or
T-1, which leaves your computer connected to the Internet 24 hours
a day. The firewall program will allow you to stop uninvited
guests from accessing your computer. Without it, hackers can take
over your computer and access your personal information stored on
it or use it to commit other crimes.
- Use a secure browser – software
that encrypts or scrambles information you send over the Internet
– to guard the security of your online transactions. Be sure your
browser has the most up-to-date encryption capabilities by using
the latest version available from the manufacturer. You also can
download some browsers for free over the Internet. When submitting
information, look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar
to be sure your information is secure during transmission.
- Try not to store financial
information on your laptop unless absolutely necessary. If you do,
use a strong password – a combination of letters (upper and lowers
case), numbers and symbols. Don’t use an automatic log-in feature
which saves your user name and password so you don’t have to enter
them each time you log-in or enter a site. And always log off when
you’re finished. That way, if your laptop gets stolen, it’s harder
for the thief to access your personal information.
- Before you dispose of a computer,
delete personal information. Deleting files using the keyboard or
mouse commands may not be enough because the files may stay on the
computer’s hard drive, where they may be easily retrieved. Use a
“wipe” utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive. It
makes the files unrecoverable. For more information, see Clearing
Information From Your Computer’s Hard Drive (www.hq.nasa.gov/office/oig/hq/harddrive.pdf)
from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
- Look for website privacy policies.
They answer questions about maintaining accuracy, access,
security, and control of personal information collected by the
site, as well as how information will be used, and whether it will
consider surfing elsewhere.
For more information, see Site-Seeing
on the Internet: A Traveler’s Guide to Cyberspace from the FTC at
CHOOSING TO SHARE YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION
In November 2000, I found out that someone
used my information to obtain a cell phone. Since then, I’ve been living a
nightmare. My credit report is a mess. It’s a full-time job to investigate
and correct the information.
consumer complaint to the FTC, April 3, 2001
Our economy generates an
enormous amount of data. Most users of that information are from honest
businesses – getting and giving legitimate information. Despite the benefits
of the information age, some consumers may want to limit the amount of
personal information they share. And they can: More organizations are
offering people choices about how their personal information is used. For
example, many feature an “opt-out” choice that limits the information shared
with others or used for promotional purposes. When you “opt-out,” you may
cut down on the number of unsolicited telemarketing calls, promotional mail
and spam emails that you receive. Learn more about the options you have for
protecting your personal information by contacting the following
Pre-Screened Credit Offers
If you receive pre-screened
credit card offers in the mail (namely, those based upon your credit data),
but don’t tear them up after you decide you don’t want to accept the offer,
identity thieves could retrieve the offers for their own use without your
To opt out of receiving
pre-screened credit card offers, call: 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567- 8688). The
three major credit bureaus use the same toll-free number to let consumers
choose to not receive pre-screened credit offers.
In addition, you can notify the
three major credit bureaus that you do not want personal information about
you shared for promotional purposes. To ask the three major credit bureaus
not to share your personal information, write to:
PO Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123
701 Experian Parkway
Allen, TX 75013
Marketing List Opt Out
PO Box 97328
Jackson, MS 39288-7328
Department of Motor Vehicles
The Drivers Privacy Protection
Act forbids states from distributing personal information to direct
marketers. It does allow for the sharing of personal information with law
enforcement officials, courts, government agencies, private investigators,
insurance underwriters and similar businesses. Check with your state DMV to
learn more, or visit
The Direct Marketing
Association’s (DMA) Mail and Telephone Preference Services allow you to opt
out of receiving direct mail marketing and telemarketing calls from many
national companies for five years.
When you register with these
services, your name will be put on a “delete” file and made available to
direct-mail and telephone marketers. However, your registration will not
stop mailings or calls from organizations not registered with the DMA’s Mail
and Telephone Preference Services.
For Direct Mail Marketing
Direct Marketing Association
Mail Preference Service
PO Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512
Or go online at
Direct Marketing Association
Telephone Preference Service
PO Box 1559
Carmel, NY 10512
Or go online at
You also may register with a
state “do not call” list: Many states offer “do not call” lists for
residents of that state. Rules for how to put your name and number on the
list and which telemarketers are covered vary. More information on state “do
not call” lists is available at www.ftc.gov/donotcall.
The DMA also has an EMail
Preference Service to help you reduce unsolicited commercial emails. To
“opt-out” of receiving unsolicited commercial email, use DMA’s online form
www.dmaconsumers.org/offemaillist.html. Your online request will be
effective for one year.
YOU'RE A VICTIM
an identity thief can strike even if you've been very careful about keeping
your personal information to yourself. If you suspect that your personal
information has been hijacked and misappropriated to commit fraud or theft,
take action immediately, and keep a record of your conversations and
correspondence. You may want to use the
Exactly which steps you should take to protect yourself depends on your
circumstances and how your identity has been misused. However, three basic
actions are appropriatein almost every case.
Your First Three Steps
First, contact the fraud departments
of each of the three major credit bureaus.
Tell them that you're an identity theft
victim. Request that a "fraud alert" be placed in your file, as well as a
victim's statement asking that creditors call you before opening any new
accounts or changing your existing accounts. This can help prevent an
identity thief from opening additional accounts in your name.
At the same time, order copies of your credit
reports from the credit bureaus. Credit bureaus must give you a free copy of
your report if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, and you request
it in writing. Review your reports carefully to make sure no additional
fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or unauthorized changes
made to your existing accounts. Also, check the section of your report that
lists "inquiries." Where "inquiries" appear from the company(ies) that
opened the fraudulent account(s), request that these "inquiries" be removed
from your report. (See "Credit Reports" for more
information.) In a few months, order new copies of your reports to verify
your corrections and changes, and to make sure no new fraudulent activity
Please note: Fraud alerts and victim
statements are voluntary services provided by the credit bureaus. Creditors
do not have to consider them when granting credit. That’s why it’s vital to
continue checking your reports periodically. In addition, fraud alerts and
victim statements expire; you need to renew them periodically. Ask each
bureau about its policy.
close the accounts that you know or believe have
been tampered with or opened fraudulently
accounts include all accounts with banks, credit card companies and other
lenders, and phone companies, utilities, ISPs, and other service providers.
If you are closing your existing accounts, use new Personal Identification
Numbers (PINs) and passwords when you open new accounts. Avoid using easily
available information like your mothers maiden name, your birth date, the
last four digits of your SSN or your phone number, or a series of
identity thief has made charges or debits, ask the company about the
following forms for disputing those transactions:
For New Unauthorized Accounts: Does the company accept the ID
Theft Affidavit (see page 29)? If not, ask the representative to
send you the company’s fraud dispute forms.
For Your Existing Accounts: Ask the representative to send you the
company’s fraud dispute forms. If the company doesn’t have special
forms, use the sample letter on page 18.
If your ATM card has been lost, stolen or otherwise compromised, cancel the
card as soon as you can. Get a new card with a new PIN.
checks have been stolen or misused, stop payment and ask your bank to notify
the check verification service with which it does business. While no federal
law limits your losses if someone steals your checks and forges your
signature, state laws may protect you. Most states hold the bank responsible
for losses from a forged check. At the same time, however, most states
require you to take reasonable care of your account. For example, you may be
held responsible for the forgery if you fail to notify the bank in a timely
manner that a check was lost or stolen. Contact your state banking or
consumer protection agency for more information.
contact major check verification companies directly for the following
To request that they notify retailers who use their databases not
to accept your checks, call:
1-800-710-9898 or 927-0188
Equifax Check Systems):
International Check Services:
To find out if the identity thief has been passing bad checks in
your name, call:
Follow up all calls in writing. Send you letter by certified mail,
return receipt requested, so you can document what the company
received and when. Keep copies for your files.
Third, file a report with your local
police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
Get a copy of the police report in case the
bank, credit card company or others need proof of the crime. Even if the
police can't catch the identity thief in your case, having a copy of the
police report can help you when dealing with creditors.
Tips on Filing a Police Report
- Provide documentation. Furnish as
much documentation as you can to prove your case. Debt collection
letters, credit reports, your notarized ID Theft Affidavit, and
other evidence of fraudulent activity can help the police file a
- Be persistent. Local authorities
may tell you that they can’t take a report. Stress the importance
of a police report; many creditors require one to resolve your
dispute. Also remind them that under their voluntary “Police
Report Initiative,” credit bureaus will automatically block the
fraudulent accounts and bad debts from appearing on your credit
report, but only if you can give them a copy of the police report.
If you can’t get the local police to take a report, try your
county police. If that doesn’t work, try your state police.
If you’re told that identity theft is not a
crime under your state law, ask to file a Miscellaneous Incident Report
instead. See page 25 for a list of state laws.
- Be a motivating force. Ask your
police department to search the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database
for other complaints in your community. You may not be the first
or only victim of this identity thief. If there is a pattern of
cases, local authorities may give your case more consideration.
That’s why it’s also important to file a
complaint with the FTC. Law enforcement agencies use complaints filed with
the FTC to aggregate cases, spot patterns, and track growth in identity
theft. This information can then be used to improve investigations and
Tips on Organizing Your Case
Accurate and complete records will greatly
improve your chances of resolving your identity theft case.
- Follow up in writing with all
contacts you’ve made on the phone or in person. Use certified
mail, return receipt requested.
- Keep copies of all correspondence
or forms you send.
- Write down the name of anyone you
talk to, what he or she told you, and the date the conversation
occurred. Use Chart Your Course of Action on page 14 to help you.
- Keep the originals of supporting
documentation, like police reports, and letters to and from
creditors; send copies only.
- Set up a filing system for easy
access to your paperwork.
- Keep old files even if you believe
your case is closed. One of the most difficult and annoying
aspects of identity theft is that errors can reappear on your
credit reports or your information can be re-circulated. Should
this happen, you’ll be glad you kept your files.
CHART YOUR COURSE OF ACTION
Use this form to record the steps you’ve taken to report the
fraudulent use of your identity. Keep this list in a safe place for
Bureaus — Report Fraud
Phone Number: 1-800-525-6285
Phone Number: 1-888-397-3742
Phone Number: 1-800-680-7289
Banks, Credit Card Issuers and Other Creditors
(Contact each creditor promptly to protect your legal rights.)
RESOLVING CREDIT PROBLEMS
for a loan in November 2000 and was told I had bad credit. I requested a
credit report in November 2000 and found all sorts of crazy information on
it. I’m single but was listed as married. When I renewed my driver’s license
by mail, I was surprised to find someone else’s face on my license. This is
a nightmare and requires a large amount of my time.
From a consumer complaint to the
FTC, October 5, 2001
While resolving credit problems resulting from
identity theft can be time-consuming and frustrating, the good news is that
there are procedures under federal laws for correcting credit report and
billing errors, and stopping debt collectors from contacting you about debts
you don’t owe. Here is a brief summary of your rights, and what to do to
clear up credit problems that result from identity theft.Credit Reports
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) establishes procedures for correcting mistakes on
your credit record and requires that your record be made available only for certain
legitimate business needs.
Under the FCRA, both the credit bureau and the organization that provided the
information to the credit bureau (the "information provider"), such as a bank or
credit card company, are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information
in your report. To protect your rights under the law, contact both the credit bureau and
the information provider.
First, call the credit bureau and follow up in writing. Tell them what
information you believe is inaccurate. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that
support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your
letter should clearly identify each item in your report that you dispute, give the facts
and explain why you dispute the information, and request deletion or correction. You may
want to enclose a copy of your report with circles around the items in question. Your
letter may look something like the sample below. Send your letter
by certified mail, and request a return receipt so you can document what the credit bureau
received and when. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
Credit bureaus must investigate the items in question - usually within 30 days - unless
they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all relevant data you provide
about the dispute to the information provider. After the information provider receives
notice of a dispute from the credit bureau, it must investigate, review all relevant
information provided by the credit bureau and report the results to the credit bureau. If
the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify
any nationwide credit bureau that it reports to so that the credit bureaus can correct
this information in your file. Note that:
Disputed information that cannot be verified must be deleted from your
If your report contains erroneous information, the credit bureau must
If an item is incomplete, the credit bureau must complete it. For
example, if your file shows that you have been late making payments, but fails to show
that you are no longer delinquent, the credit bureau must show that you're current.
If your file shows an account that belongs to someone else, the credit
bureau must delete it.
When the investigation is complete, the credit bureau must give you the written results
and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed
or removed, the credit bureau cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless
the information provider verifies its accuracy and completeness, and the credit bureau
gives you a written notice that includes the name, address and phone number of the
If you request, the credit bureau must send notices of corrections to anyone who
received your report in the past six months. Job applicants can have a corrected copy of
their report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment
purposes. If an investigation does not resolve your dispute, ask the credit bureau to
include your statement of the dispute in your file and in future reports.
Second, in addition to writing to the credit bureau, tell the creditor
or other information provider in writing
that you dispute an item. Again, include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support
your position. Many information providers specify an address for disputes. If the
information provider then reports the item to any credit bureau, it must include a notice
of your dispute. In addition, if you are correct - that is, if the disputed information is
not accurate - the information provider may not use it again.
For more information,
consult How to Dispute Credit Report Errors and Fair Credit Reporting, two brochures available from the FTC
or at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
Proving You’re a Victim, Not a Deadbeat
Unlike victims of other crimes, who generally are treated with respect and
sympathy, identity theft victims often find themselves having to prove that
they’re victims, too – not deadbeats trying to get out of paying bad debts.
So how do you go about proving something you didn’t do? Getting the right
documents and getting them to the right people is key.
The Police Report: If you have a police report, send a copy to Experian,
Equifax and TransUnion. They will block the information you’re disputing
from your credit reports. This may take up to 30 days. The credit bureaus
have the right to remove the block, if they believe it was wrongly placed.
Because this initiative is voluntary in the vast majority of states, it’s
important to also follow the dispute procedures outlined in “Credit Reports”
on this page. Contact the credit bureaus to find out more about how the
“Police Report Initiative” works. If you’re having trouble getting a police
report, see “Tips on Filing a Police Report”.
The ID Theft Affidavit: Since you didn’t open the accounts in dispute or run
up the related debts, of course you don’t have any paperwork showing you
didn’t do these things. That’s where the ID Theft Affidavit can be very
helpful. The FTC, in conjunction with banks, credit grantors and consumer
advocates, developed the ID Theft Affidavit (see page 29) to help you close
unauthorized accounts and get rid of debts wrongfully attributed to your
name. If you don’t have a police report or any paperwork from creditors,
send the completed ID Theft Affidavit to the three major credit bureaus.
They will use it to start the dispute investigation process. Not all
companies accept the ID Theft Affidavit. They may require you to use their
forms instead. Check first.
Creditor Documentation: Getting documentation from a creditor may be
difficult. Creditors’ policies on confidentiality and record keeping vary
and may prevent you from getting the paperwork you need to prove you didn’t
make the transaction. On the upside, most victims can get accounts closed
and debts dismissed by completing the creditor’s fraud paperwork or the ID
Theft Affidavit and including a copy of your police report. Insist on a
letter from the creditor stating that they have closed the disputed accounts
and have discharged you of the fraudulent debts. This letter is your best
defense if errors reappear or your personal information gets re-circulated.
(See Tips on Organizing Your Case, page 13). This letter is also the best
document to give credit bureaus and debt collectors if your police report
and ID Theft Affidavit aren’t enough to resolve your problems with them.
Sample Dispute Letter
Your City, State, Zip Code
Name of Credit Bureau
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute the
following information in my file.
The items I dispute also are circled on the attached copy of
the report I received. (Identify item(s) disputed by name of
source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of
item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.)
I am a victim of identity
theft, and did not make the
charge(s). I am requesting that the item be blocked to
correct my credit report.
Enclosed are copies of (use
this sentence if applicable and
describe any enclosed documentation) supporting my
position. Please investigate this (these) matter(s) and block
the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.
Enclosures: (List what you
In most cases, the Truth in Lending Act
limits your liability for unauthorized credit card charges to $50 per card.
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) establishes procedures for resolving
billing errors on your credit card accounts. This includes fraudulent
charges on your accounts.
To take advantage of the law's consumer protections, you must:
write to the creditor at the address given for "billing
inquiries," not the address for sending your payments. Include your name, address,
account number and a description of the billing error, including the amount and date of
the error. Your letter may look something like the sample below.
send your letter so that it reaches the creditor within 60 days after
the first bill containing the error was mailed to you. If the address on your account was
changed by an identity thief and you never received the bill, your dispute letter still
must reach the creditor within 60 days of when the creditor would have mailed the bill.
This is why it's so important to keep track of your billing statements and immediately
follow up when your bills don't arrive on time.
- Send your letter by certified mail, and request a return receipt. This will be your
proof of the date the creditor received the letter. Include copies (NOT originals) of
sales slips or other documents that support your position. Keep a copy of your dispute
- The creditor must acknowledge your complaint in writing within 30 days after receiving
it, unless the problem has been resolved. The creditor must resolve the dispute within two
billing cycles (but not more than 90 days) after receiving your letter.
For more information, see Fair Credit Billing and Avoiding Credit and Charge Card Fraud, two brochures
available from the FTC or at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
Sample Dispute Letter —
For Existing Credit Accounts
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Account Number
Name of Creditor
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute a fraudulent
(charge or debit)
attributed to my account in the amount of $______. I am a
victim of identity theft, and I did not make this (charge or
debit). I am requesting that the (charge be removed or the
debit reinstated), that any finance and other charges
related to the fraudulent amount be credited as well, and
that I receive an accurate statement.
Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence
to describe any
enclosed information, such as police report) supporting my
position. Please investigate this matter and correct the
fraudulent (charge or debit) as soon as possible.
Enclosures: (List what you are
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from using unfair or
deceptive practices to collect overdue bills that a creditor has forwarded for collection.
You can stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the collection
agency telling them to stop. Once the debt collector receives your letter, the company may
not contact you again - with two exceptions: they can tell you there will be no further
contact and they can tell you that the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some
A collector also may not contact you if,
within 30 days after you receive the written notice, you send the collection
agency a letter stating you do not owe the money.
Although such a letter should stop the debt
collector's calls, it will not necessarily get rid of the debt itself, which
may still turn up on your credit report.
A collector can
renew collection activities if you are sent proof of the debt. So, along
with your letter stating you don't owe the money, include copies of
documents that support your position. If you're a victim of
identity theft, including a copy (NOT original) of the police report you
filed may be particularly useful.
If you’re a victim of identity theft, include
a copy (NOT the original) of the police report. If you don’t have
documentation to support your position, be as specific as possible about why
the debt collector is mistaken.
The debt collector is responsible for sending you proof that you’re wrong.
For example, if the debt in dispute originates from a credit card you never
applied for, ask for the actual application containing the applicant’s
signature. You can then prove that it’s not your
signature on the application. In many cases, the debt collector will not
send you any proof, but will instead return the debt to the creditor.
For more information, consult Fair Debt Collection, a
brochure available from the FTC or at www.consumer.gov/idtheft
ATM Cards, Debit Cards and Electronic Fund Transfers
The Electronic Fund Transfer Act provides consumer protections for transactions
involving an ATM or debit card or other electronic way to debit or credit an account. It
also limits your liability for unauthorized electronic fund transfers.
It's important to report lost or stolen ATM and debit cards immediately because the
amount you can be held responsible for depends on how quickly
you report the loss.
If you report your ATM card lost or stolen within two business days of
discovering the loss or theft, your losses are limited to $50.
If you report your ATM card lost or stolen after the two business days,
but within 60 days after a statement showing an unauthorized electronic fund transfer, you
can be liable for up to $500 of what a thief withdraws.
If you wait more than 60 days, you could lose all
the money that was taken from your account after the end of the 60 days and before you
report your card missing.
The best way to protect yourself in the event of an error or fraudulent
transaction is to call the financial institution and follow up in writing - by certified
letter, return receipt requested - so you can prove when the institution received your
letter. Keep a copy of the letter you send for your records.
receiving notification about an error on your statement, the
institution generally has 10 business days to investigate. The financial institution must
tell you the results of its investigation within three business days after completing it
and must correct an error within one business day after determining that the error has
occurred. If the institution needs more time, it may take up to 45 days to complete the
investigation - but only if the money in dispute is returned to your account and you are
notified promptly of the credit. At the end of the investigation, if no error has been
found, the institution may take the money back if it sends you a written explanation.
Note: VISA and MasterCard voluntarily have agreed to
limit consumers' liability for unauthorized use of their debit cards in most instances to
$50 per card, no matter how much time has elapsed since the discovery of the loss or theft
of the card.
For more information, consult Electronic Banking and
Credit, ATM and Debit Cards: What to do if They're
Lost or Stolen,
two brochures available from the FTC or at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
FILING A COMPLAINT WITH THE FTC IS IMPORTANT
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, file a complaint with the FTC by
contacting the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline by telephone: toll-free
1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); TDD: 202-326-2502; by mail: Identity Theft
Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20580; or online:
Although the FTC does not have the authority
to bring criminal cases, the Commission can help victims of identity theft
by providing information to assist them in resolving the financial and other
problems that can result from this crime.
By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide
important information that can help law enforcement officials track down
identity thieves and stop them. The FTC also refers victim complaints to
other appropriate government agencies and private organizations for further
Numerous federal and state agencies have jurisdiction over specific aspects
of identity theft. If your theft relates to any of the following categories,
contact the agencies directly for help and information or to initiate an
If you’re having trouble getting your financial institution to help you
resolve your banking-related identity theft problems, including problems
with bank-issued credit cards, contact the agency with the appropriate
jurisdiction. If you’re not sure which of the agencies listed below has
jurisdiction over your institution, call your bank or visit
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) – www.fdic.gov
The FDIC supervises state-chartered banks that are not members of the
Federal Reserve System and insures deposits at banks and savings and loans.
Call the FDIC Consumer Call Center at 1-800-934-3342; or write: Federal
Deposit Insurance Corporation, Division of Compliance and Consumer Affairs,
550 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20429.
Federal Reserve System (Fed) – www.federalreserve.gov
The Fed supervises state-chartered banks that are members of the Federal
Call: 202-452-3693; or write: Division of Consumer and Community Affairs,
Mail Stop 801, Federal Reserve Board, Washington, DC 20551; or contact the
Federal Reserve Bank in your area. The 12 Reserve Banks are located in
Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St.
Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco.
National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) – www.ncua.gov
The NCUA charters and supervises federal credit unions and insures deposits
at federal credit unions and many state credit unions.
Call: 703-518-6360; or write: Compliance Officer, National Credit Union
Administration, 1775 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) –
The OCC charters and supervises national banks. If the word “national”
appears in the name of a bank, or the initials “N.A.” follow its name, the
OCC oversees its operations.
Call: 1-800-613-6743 (business days 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. CST); fax:
713-336-4301; write: Customer Assistance Group, 1301 McKinney Street, Suite
3710, Houston, TX 77010.
Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) – www.ots.treas.gov
The OTS is the primary regulator of all federal, and many state-chartered,
thrift institutions, which include savings banks and savings and loan
Call: 202-906-6000; or write: Office of Thrift Supervision, 1700 G Street,
NW, Washington, DC 20552.
U. S. Trustee (UST) – www.usdoj.gov/ust
If you believe someone has filed for bankruptcy in your name, write to the
U.S. Trustee in the region where the bankruptcy was filed. A list of the
U.S. Trustee Programs’s Regional Offices is available on the UST website, or
check the Blue Pages of your phone book under U.S. Government Bankruptcy
Your letter should describe the situation and provide proof of your
identity. The U.S. Trustee, if appropriate, will make a criminal referral to
law enforcement authorities if you provide appropriate documentation to
substantiate your claim. You also may want to file a complaint with the U.S.
Attorney and/or the FBI in the city where the bankruptcy was filed. The U.S.
Trustee does not provide legal representation, legal advice or referrals to
lawyers. That means you may need to hire an attorney to help convince the
bankruptcy court that the filing is fraudulent. The U.S. Trustee does not
provide consumers with copies of court documents. Those documents are
available from the bankruptcy clerk’s office for a fee.
Although procedures to correct your record within the criminal justice
databases vary from state to state, and even from county to county, the
following information can be used as a general guide.
If wrongful criminal violations are attributed to your name, contact the
arresting or citing law enforcement agency – that is, the police or
sheriff’s department that originally arrested the person using your
identity, or the court agency that issued the warrant for the arrest. File
an impersonation report. And have your identity confirmed: The police
department takes a full set of your fingerprints and your photograph, and
copies any photo identification documents like your driver’s license,
passport or visa. Ask the law enforcement agency to compare the prints and
photographs with those of the imposter to establish your innocence. If the
arrest warrant is from a state or county other than where you live, ask your
local police department to send the impersonation report to the police
department in the jurisdiction where the arrest warrant, traffic citation or
criminal conviction originated.
The law enforcement agency should then recall any warrants and issue a
“clearance letter” or certificate of release (if you were arrested/booked).
You’ll need to keep this document with you at all times in case you’re
wrongly arrested. Also, ask the law enforcement agency to file, with the
district attorney’s (D.A.) office and/or court where the crime took place,
the record of the follow-up investigation establishing your innocence. This
will result in an amended complaint being issued. Once your name is recorded
in a criminal database, it’s unlikely that it will be completely removed
from the official record. Ask that the “key name,” or “primary name,” be
changed from your name to the imposter’s name (or to “John Doe” if the
imposter’s true identity is not known), with your name noted only as an
You’ll also want to clear your name in the court records. You’ll need to
determine which state law(s) will help you do this and how. If your state
has no formal procedure for clearing your record, contact the D.A.’s office
in the county where the case was originally prosecuted. Ask the D.A.’s
office for the appropriate court records needed to clear your name.
Finally, contact your state DMV to find out if your driver’s license is
being used by the identity thief. Ask that your files be flagged for
You may need to hire a criminal defense attorney to help you clear your
name. Contact Legal Services in your state or your local bar association for
help in finding an attorney.
Fake Driver’s License
If you think your name or SSN is being used by an identity thief to get a
driver’s license or a non-driver’s ID card, contact your DMV. If your state
uses your SSN as your driver’s license number, ask to substitute another
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – www.sec.gov
The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Assistance serves investors who
complain to the SEC about investment fraud or the mishandling of their
investments by securities professionals. If you believe that an identity
thief has tampered with your securities investments or a brokerage account,
immediately report it to your broker or account manager and to the SEC. You
can file a complaint with the SEC using the online Complaint Center at
www.sec.gov/complaint.shtml. Be sure to include as much detail as possible.
If you don’t have access to the Internet, you can write to the SEC at: SEC
Office of Investor Education and Assistance, 450 Fifth Street, NW,
Washington DC, 20549-0213. For general questions, call 202-942-7040.
U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) –
USPIS is the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service responsible for
investigating cases of identity theft. USPIS has primary jurisdiction in all
matters infringing on the integrity of the U.S. mail. If an identity thief
has stolen your mail to get new credit cards, bank or credit card
statements, pre-screened credit offers or tax information, has falsified
change-of-address forms, or obtained your personal information through a
fraud conducted by mail, report it to your local postal inspector. You can
locate the USPIS district office nearest you by calling your local post
office or checking the list at the website above.
United States Department of State (USDS) –
If you’ve lost your passport or believe it was stolen or is being used
fraudulently, contact the USDS through their website or call a local USDS
field office. Local field offices are listed in the Blue Pages of your
If an identity thief has established phone service in your name, is making
unauthorized calls that seem to come from – and are billed to – your
cellular phone, or is using your calling card and PIN, contact your service
provider immediately to cancel the account and/or calling card. Open new
accounts and choose new PINs. If you’re having trouble getting fraudulent
phone charges removed from your account or getting an unauthorized account
closed, contact the appropriate agency from the list below.
For local service, contact your state Public Utility Commission.
For cellular phones and long distance, contact the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) – www.fcc.gov. The FCC regulates interstate and
international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and
cable. You can contact the FCC’s Consumer Information Bureau to find out
about information, forms, applications and current issues before the FCC.
Call: 1-888-CALL-FCC; TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC; or write: Federal Communications
Commission, Consumer Information Bureau, 445 12th Street, SW, Room 5A863,
Washington, DC 20554. You can file complaints via the online complaint form
at www.fcc.gov, or e-mail questions to
Social Security Number Theft and Misuse
Social Security Administration (SSA) – www.ssa.gov
The SSA Office of the Inspector General investigates cases of identity
theft. Report allegations that an SSN has been stolen or misused to the SSA
Fraud Hotline. Call: 1-800- 269-0271; fax: 410-597-0118; write: SSA Fraud
Hotline, P.O. Box 17768, Baltimore, MD 21235; or e-mail:
Also call SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to verify the accuracy of the earnings
reported on your SSN, and to request a copy of your Social Security
Statement. Follow up in writing.
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – www.treas.gov/irs/ci
The IRS is responsible for administering and enforcing tax laws. If you
believe someone has assumed your identity to file federal Income Tax
Returns, or to commit other tax fraud, call toll-free: 1-800-829-0433.
Victims of identity theft who are having trouble filing their returns should
call the IRS Taxpayer Advocates Office, toll-free:
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – www.ftc.gov
The FTC is educating consumers and businesses about the importance of
personal information privacy. Here are some additional publications you may
find useful. To request a free copy, call 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357) or visit
Department of Justice (DOJ) – www.usdoj.gov
The DOJ and its U.S. Attorneys prosecute federal identity theft cases.
Information on identity theft is available at
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – www.fbi.gov
The FBI, a criminal law enforcement agency, investigates cases of identity
theft. The FBI recognizes that identity theft
is a component of many crimes including bank fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud,
bankruptcy fraud, insurance fraud, fraud against the government, and
terrorism. Local field offices are listed in the Blue Pages of your
Protecting Yourself Against Identity Fraud –
U.S. Secret Service (USSS) – www.treas.gov/usss
The U.S. Secret Service investigates financial crimes, which may include
identity theft. Although the Secret Service generally investigates cases
where the dollar loss is substantial, your information may provide evidence
of a larger pattern of fraud requiring their involvement. Local field
offices are listed in the Blue Pages of your telephone directory.
Financial Crimes Division –
Frequently Asked Questions: Protecting Yourself –
IT'S THE LAW
The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, enacted by
Congress in October 1998 (and codified, in part, at 18 U.S.C. §1028)
is the federal law making identity theft a crime.
Identity Theft and Assumption
Deterrence Act of 1998
The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act makes it a federal
crime when someone “knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful
authority, a means of identification of another person with the
intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that
constitutes a violation of federal law, or that constitutes a felony
under any applicable state or local law.”
Under the Act, a name or SSN is considered a “means of
identification.” So is a credit card number, cellular telephone
electronic serial number or any other piece of information that may
be used alone or in conjunction with other information to identify a
Violations of the Act are investigated by federal law enforcement
agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI, the U.S.
Postal Inspection Service, and SSA’s Office of the Inspector
General. Federal identity theft cases are prosecuted by the U.S.
Department of Justice.
In most instances, a conviction for identity theft carries a maximum
penalty of 15 years imprisonment, a fine and forfeiture of any
personal property used or intended to be used to commit the crime.
Pursuant to the Act, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has developed
federal sentencing guidelines to provide appropriate penalties for
those persons convicted of identity theft.
Schemes to commit identity theft or fraud also may involve
violations of other statutes, such as credit card fraud, computer
fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, financial institution fraud, or
Social Security fraud. Each of these federal offenses is a felony
and carries substantial penalties – in some cases, as high as 30
years in prison as well as fines and criminal forfeiture.
Many states have passed laws related to identity theft; others are
considering such legislation. Where specific identity theft laws do
not exist, the practices may be prohibited under other laws. Contact
your State Attorney General’s office (for a list of state offices,
visit www.naag.org) or local
consumer protection agency for laws related to identity theft, or
www.consumer.gov/idtheft. State laws enacted at the time of this
booklet’s publication are listed below.
Instructions for Completing the ID Theft
To make certain that you do not become
responsible for the debts incurred by the identity thief, you must provide
proof that you didn’t create the debt to each of the companies where
accounts were opened or used in your name.
A working group composed of credit grantors,
consumer advocates and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) developed this ID
Theft Affidavit to help you report information to many companies using just
one standard form. Use of this affidavit is optional for companies. While
many companies accept this affidavit, others require that you submit more or
different forms. Before you send the affidavit, contact each company to find
out if they accept it.
You can use this affidavit where a new
account was opened in your name. The information will enable the companies
to investigate the fraud and decide the outcome of your claim. (If someone
made unauthorized charges to an existing account, call the company to find
out what to do.)
This affidavit has two parts:
- ID Theft Affidavit is where you
report general information about yourself and the theft.
- Fraudulent Account Statement is
where you describe the fraudulent account(s) opened in your name.
Use a separate Fraudulent Account Statement for each company you
need to write to.
When you send the affidavit to the companies,
attach copies (NOT originals) of any supporting documents (for example,
driver’s license, police report) you have. Before submitting your affidavit,
review the disputed account(s) with family members or friends who may have
information about the account(s) or access to them.
Complete this affidavit as soon as possible.
Many creditors ask that you send it within two weeks of receiving it.
Delaying could slow the investigation.
Be as accurate and complete as possible. You
may choose not to provide some of the information requested. However,
incorrect or incomplete information will slow the process of investigating
your claim and absolving the debt. Please print clearly.
When you have finished completing the
affidavit, mail a copy to each creditor, bank or company that provided the
thief with the unauthorized credit, goods or services you describe. Attach
to each affidavit a copy of the Fraudulent Account Statement with
information only on accounts opened at the institution receiving the packet,
as well as any other supporting documentation you are able to provide.
Send the appropriate documents to each
company by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can prove that
it was received. The companies will review your claim and send you a written
response telling you the outcome of their investigation. Keep a copy of
everything you submit for your records.
If you cannot complete the affidavit, a legal
guardian or someone with power of attorney may complete it for you. Except
as noted, the information you provide will be used only by the company to
process your affidavit, investigate the events you report and help stop
further fraud. If this affidavit is requested in a lawsuit, the company
might have to provide it to the requesting party.
Completing this affidavit does not guarantee that the identity thief will be
prosecuted or that the debt will be cleared.
If you haven’t already done so, report the
fraud to the following organizations:
1. Each of the three national consumer
reporting agencies. Ask each agency to place a “fraud alert” on your credit
report, and send you a copy of your credit file. When you have completed
your affidavit packet, you may want to send them a copy to help them
investigate the disputed
Equifax Credit Information Services, Inc.
(800) 525-6285/ TDD 1-800-255-0056 and ask the operator to call the Auto
Disclosure Line at 1-800-685-1111 to obtain a copy of your report.
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian Information Solutions, Inc.
(888) 397-3742/ TDD (800) 972-0322
P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
(800) 680-7289/ TDD (877) 553-7803
Fraud Victim Assistance Division
P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
2. The fraud department at each creditor,
bank, or utility/service that provided the identity thief with unauthorized
credit, goods or services. This would be a good time to find out if the
company accepts this affidavit, and whether they require notarization or a
copy of the police report.
3. Your local police department. Ask the
officer to take a report and give you a copy of the report. Sending a copy
of your police report to financial institutions can speed up the process of
absolving you of wrongful debts or removing inaccurate information from your
credit reports. If you can’t get a copy, at least get the number of the
4. The FTC, which maintains the Identity
Theft Data Clearinghouse – the federal government’s centralized identity
theft complaint database – and provides information to identity theft
victims. You can visit
www.consumer.gov/idtheft or call toll-free 1-877-ID-THEFT
The FTC collects complaints from identity
theft victims and shares their information with law enforcement agencies
nationwide. This information also may be shared with other government
agencies, consumer reporting agencies, and companies where the fraud was
perpetrated to help resolve identity theft-related problems.
ID Theft Affidavit
When you contact us with
complaints or requests for information, you can contact us online at
by telephone, toll-free at 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); or by mail:
Federal Trade Commission, Identity Theft Clearinghouse, 600
Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. Before you do, there
are a few things you should know.
We enter the information you send into our electronic database – the
Identity Theft Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse is a system of
records covered under the Privacy Act of 1974. In general, the
Privacy Act prohibits unauthorized disclosures of the records it
protects. It also gives individuals the right to review records
about themselves. Learn more about your Privacy Act rights and the
FTC’s Privacy Act procedures by contacting the FTC’s Freedom of
Information Act Office: 202-326-2430;
The information you submit is shared with our attorneys and
investigators. It also may be shared with employees of various other
federal, state, or local law enforcement or regulatory authorities.
We also may share information with certain private entities, such as
credit bureaus and any companies you may have complained about,
where we believe that doing so might assist in resolving identity
theft-related problems. You may be contacted by the FTC or any of
the agencies or private entities to whom your complaint has been
referred. In other limited circumstances, including requests from
Congress, we may be required by law to disclose information you
You have the option to submit your information anonymously. However,
if you do not provide your name and contact information, law
enforcement and other entities will not be able to contact you to
obtain additional information to assist in identity theft
investigations and prosecutions.
The FTC works for the consumer to
prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the
marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and
avoid them. To file a
complaint or to get free information
on consumer issues, visit
call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The
FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related
Consumer Sentinel, a
secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law
enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
FOR THE CONSUMER