What to Do If Your Identity Is Stolen

February 10, 2023 3 min

Who makes a good target for identity theft? Everyone. By accessing personal information, criminals can empty bank accounts, run up credit card charges, open new accounts, cash in on tax refunds, claim unemployment benefits, or get medical treatment. Since the cost is so great, it’s important to understand what identity theft is, how to protect yourself from identity theft, and what to do if your identity is stolen.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft refers to any type of crime where (1) someone’s personal information is stolen and (2) used for financial gain, such as to take your money, open credit accounts, file tax returns, claim unemployment benefits or get medical services.

You may have been affected by ID theft if you receive bills for items you didn’t buy, debt collection calls for accounts you didn’t open, or denials for loan applications.”

How to tell if your identity has been stolen

Most people don’t realize they are victims of identity theft right away. You may have been affected by ID theft if you receive bills for items you didn’t buy, debt collection calls for accounts you didn’t open, or denials for loan applications. Unauthorized withdrawals from your bank account, refused checks, and unfamiliar charges on your credit card are common signs of identity theft as well.

What to do if you're a victim of identity theft

If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at IdentityTheft.gov. By creating an IdentityTheft.gov account, you’ll get documentation that shows your identity was stolen as well as a personal recovery plan with recommended steps to take to restore your identity. These may include:

  • Call your financial institutions as well as any company where the fraudster has opened an account in your name and ask to speak to their fraud department. You can reach Patelco at 800.358.8228.
  • Set up a free fraud alert with one of the following credit bureaus — that company must notify the other two. When a fraud alert is in effect (typically for one year), anyone who receives a credit application in your name should contact you to verify your identity and confirm the request.
    Experian: experian.com/fraud or 888.397.3742
    TransUnion: transunion.com/fraud-alerts or 888.909.8872
    Equifax: equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services or 888.378.4329
  • Contact ChexSystems (chexsystems.com or 888.478.6536) and request an ID theft alert on your debit file. You can also ask them to check for any recent inquiries made under your name or Social Security number.
  • Request your free credit report, review it for discrepancies, and then follow the instructions for reporting fraud.
  • Notify your local police. Tell them you’d like to file a report and ask for a copy of the report to help you close accounts opened in your name and to remove unauthorized charges from your accounts. You’ll want to provide:
    • a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report
    • a government-issued photo ID
    • proof of address, such as a utility bill, rental agreement, or mortgage statement
    • any proof you have of the identity theft
    • A printed copy of the FTC’s Memo to Law Enforcement.


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