Identity theft victims feel violated, and hurt someone would steal their personal information. When you’re a victim, you’re never sure how much information the thief stole. Often, the source of the breach is unknown. For all these reasons, it’s challenging to clear your name once you’re a victim. Instead of focusing on how you became vulnerable, swing into defense mode and cancel everything. This will provide you with the most protection.

1. Cancel all your credit cards

When you call your credit companies, alert them to why you are canceling your account. They may advise you of your rights to protect your good name and credit.

Don’t forget your ATM card. Request a new card and PIN #.

To be on the super safe side, you might even cancel your bank account and re-open a new one especially if you suspect your checks may have made you vulnerable.

2. Add a fraud alert to your accounts

Notify the credit bureaus so they’ll know when there is fraudulent activity. There are two types of fraud alerts. First, a 90 day alert will go on your file. If someone tries to open an account, it will be verified with you before that can happen.

There is also an extended 7 year fraud alert. You need a police report to do this. When you file this report, your name will automatically be removed from all prescreened credit and insurance offers for five years. To continue this afterward call, 1-888-567-8688 or click here to opt out.

You only have to contact one of the three credit reporting agencies. By law, they have to alert the others. To be safe, I’d call all of them to make sure your fraud alert is active.

Equifax Fraud Alert 1-800-525-6285
Experian Fraud Alert 1-800-397-3742
TransUnion Fraud Alert 1-800-680-7289

When you file the initial 90 day alert, you will be entitled to one copy of your credit report.

3. File a complaint with the FTC

Filing with the FTC is a good step to take before you head to the police station, because it will make you a more knowledgable consumer. There are resources for consumers and letters you can print to take with you to the PD to make sure you get everything you need.

I often hear from consumers that police departments don’t want to take reports because they don’t have enough information to go on pertaining to the ID theft. That’s why you should file with the FTC first, so you’ll get what you need at the PD.

4. File a police report

Consumers always complain that their local police department didn’t take their report of ID theft seriously or they won’t take a report. Insist on it. A report is necessary to fight fraudulent activity on your accounts and it’s needed to reduce the cost of defending your good name.

Ask your local law enforcement agency for a more comprehensive ID Theft Report. If they won’t give you one, give them this letter explaining what it is.

In Ohio, ask the officer to enroll you in the Passport Program (Identity Theft Verification Passport Program). Your photo, signature, and fingerprint will be entered into an electronic gateway to verify who you are. You’ll also be given a wallet-sized card to prove you are an ID theft victim. This is supposed to make it easier to fight the fraudulent activity on your report.

5. Consider a credit freeze

In some states you have to pay for the freeze. In other states, it’s free if you filed a police report. Click here for a state by state guide.

You need to understand that this will make it very difficult to pull credit in your name. It prevents a thief from opening up accounts in your name, but it also makes it difficult for you to do business. So, if you’re thinking of getting a car loan or new credit card in the near future you need to understand that you will have to jump through hoops to “thaw” your credit again. It’s a good defense mechanism, though, and may be worth the hassle to save you time fighting bill that are not yours.

6. File state complaints

Missouri Attorney General

Kansas Attorney General
The KS AG put together an easy to follow ID Theft Repair Kit that explains the problem and how to fix it in more detail.

Ohio Attorney General
Ohio has an Identity Theft Verification Passport Program that is supposed to speed-up the process. Consumers are given a wallet-sized card that verifies you are a victim. This should eliminate the constant headache of proving you are a victim while disputing fraudulent activity.

7. Get a credit report

If you do a fraud alert, you’ll get your report free of charge. If for some reason you don’t have one at this point in the process, request your free copy at Annual Credit Report.

8. Begin investigating

While you may be frustrated at this point and wondering why you filled out all these reports, it’s important to note that law enforcement agencies look for patterns. While they may not be able to help you with your individual ID theft case, reports are the only way for them to catch repeat offenders and crack ID theft rings.

ID theft often happens across jurisdictions which is why consumers rarely see their cases investigated.

It can take hours defending your good name. Be patient.

Once you’ve cancelled everything and reported the crime, now it’s time to figure out how you became vulnerable. This will prevent it from happening again. If there is fraudulent activity on your credit report or credit inquiries from businesses you don’t know, write a letter to the business requesting the application. The business is required to send you the document free of charge within 30 days of receiving your request and ID verification in writing. There are reasons that the business may not disclose the application to you. That’s why I’d use the FTC cover letter linked above so you are proving to the business you are a smart consumer who knows their rights.