Identity Theft & Your Rights
Once you checked the warning signs of identity theft and have determined someone is trying to steal your identity, it's time to take action.
Fortunately, you have identity theft protection through both federal and state laws, and we can help you navigate all the steps to report identity theft.
Identity Fraud Victim Rights
Under federal law, you have the right to the following:
- File an identity theft report.
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides this report online.
- Take action regarding your credit report by contacting credit bureaus and:
- Placing fraud alerts.
- Ordering a free copy of your credit report.
- Once you review your credit report, you can dispute inaccurate and fraudulent information and have it removed.
- Take action regarding debt collectors and creditors (see “Notifying Debt Collectors and Creditors" below for more specific information):
- Stop the reporting of fraudulent accounts.
- Stop debt collectors from contacting you about debts related to fraudulent accounts.
- Request copies of identity theft documents.
Additional Federal Rights
Per the Justice for All Act, you are provided with additional federal rights when it's time to prosecute the identity thief.
- Receive protection from your identity thief.
- Receive certain information about the identity thief, such as details about public court proceedings.
- You won't be excluded unless a judge determines it necessary.
- You will be heard at and/or allowed information about any court proceedings involving pleas, sentencing, parole, or release.
- Discuss the case with the government's attorney.
- Obtain restitution, i.e. compensation for your loss.
- Expect discretion involving your privacy and dignity.
Additional State Rights
Naturally, state rights vary by state. Please refer to the consumer protection offices in your state.
Documenting & Reporting Fraud
The identity theft report you complete with the FTC helps fix identity theft problems. For example, you can use your fraud alert to show businesses proof that your identity was stolen (another reason it's important to print a copy of your identity theft report).
Additionally, you can file a police report using your initial identity theft report.
Contacting Credit Bureaus
As mentioned above, you can contact credit bureaus for additional identity theft protection.
Generally, the FTC recommends contacting “The Big 3": Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
Work with the credit bureaus to:
- Put an initial fraud alert on your credit report:
- This means creditors must take certain steps to make sure it's actually you whenever credit is applied for in your name.
- This alert lasts up to 90 days.
- Applying for this fraud alert grants you a free credit report (outside of the annual report you're already entitled to).
- Put an extended fraud alert on your credit report:
- This means the creditors must contact you before providing credit in your name.
- This alert lasts up to 7 years.
- File and/or dispute to remove fraudulent information from your credit report.
- Provide the credit bureaus with your:
- Identity theft report.
- Proof of identity.
- Explanation of the fraudulent information.
- Credit bureaus must report the identity theft to any relevant creditors who aren't allowed to send fraudulent debts to collections.
- Provide the credit bureaus with your:
Depending on your state, you might also be able to freeze your credit report, which makes it difficult for the identity thief to open new accounts in your name. Refer to the consumer protection offices in your state for details.
Notifying Debt Collectors & Creditors
Although the credit bureaus must contact creditors about your identity theft, you also have the right to contact them regarding the identity fraud.
For example, you can:
- Get creditors and debt collectors to stop reporting fraudulent accounts.
- Provide them with a copy of your identity theft report.
- Request identity theft documents, such as new credit account applications.
- Provide the creditors and debt collectors with a copy of your identity theft report.
- Consider requesting they send the documents to law enforcement agencies, too.
- Receive documentation regarding a specific fraudulent debt or debts.
- You can do this by writing the creditors and debt collectors, or requesting the information when they call you.
- Block future contact from the creditors and debt collectors.
- Generally, they must stop contacting you after you provide them with a written request and, for good measure, your identity theft report.
Federal Financial Loss Limits
As part of your identity theft rights:
- You can limit your financial liability by immediately contacting your bank or credit union.
- This is especially important if your debit card, bank-related credit card, or checks have been stolen.
- The longer you wait to make the report, the more you may be financially liable for.
- You can limit your financial responsibility to $50, per federal law, if the identity thief uses your credit card.
- You aren't responsible for any charges to your credit card if you report the theft before any charges are made.
- State laws vary regarding on matters such as opening new accounts in your name and the issuance of fraudulent checks.
- Refer to the consumer protection offices in your state for details.