If someone broke into your home and stole your credit cards, you would immediately contact the police and report the crime. Why would your response to identity theft be any different? Unfortunately, many people do not realize how to report identity theft or why reporting identity theft is so important.
Statistics on Reporting
The FTC has compiled statistics from 2005 showing the number of identity theft victims who reported the crime to different organizations. Nearly 40% of victims did not report the crime at all. Only 26% alerted their local police and just 21% contacted any of the three major credit bureaus in the United States. Only four percent of victims were reporting identity theft to the FTC, although they are the main government agency handling these cases. In most of these cases, the problem stems from a lack of information on the proper steps to take when you have been a victim of identity theft.
Reporting identity theft should begin by contacting the national credit bureaus – Transunion, Experian, and Equifax. You need to request a fraud alert be placed on your credit report. While the alert is a good start, you should move forward and request an extended fraud alert, too. The extended version lasts for seven years. It includes your phone number so creditors can contact you if a problem arises and requires you to provide a copy of the police report to each of the bureaus. Only 7% of identity theft victims took this step in 2005.
The Local Police
Because you will need a police report for the credit bureaus and for most financial organizations affected by the identity theft, you need to contact them about what has happened. A common misconception about reporting this to the police is that nothing will be done. According to the FTC, in only 19% of the cases reported to the police was no report taken. In more than half, not only was a report taken, but a copy was provided to the victim.
The FTC & Others
While the credit bureaus and law enforcement are both important to notify, you do not want to forget about reporting identity theft to the FTC. You should also contact the Social Security Administration if you believe your social security number may be involved in the fraudulent activity.
Remember that taking these steps and letting the authorities know about the crime can help quicken your recovery and may help reduce the number of victims in the future.