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A Complete Guide to Reporting Identity Theft to the Federal Trade Commission

Christopher Somerville - Top10 writer
An ID theft victim trying to report the incident to the FTC.
Not sure what to do if someone steals your identity? As an investigations supervisor and ID theft manager, I've helped many victims report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

In 2022 alone, the FTC's Consumer Sentinel Network received over 5 million fraud notices, highlighting the alarming prevalence of fraud and identity theft. While the FTC offers a structured framework to aid victims in the recovery process, you need to understand how it operates and how to use its resources properly.

In this post, I'll share practical steps and tips, based on what I've learned, to help you effectively report identity theft to the FTC.

» Need help safeguarding your personal information? Check out our top picks for the best identity theft protection services.

Understanding the Role of the FTC

The FTC runs two separate platforms: identitytheft.gov and reportfraud.ftc.gov. If someone steals your identity, you can go to these websites to report it. The platforms help you by giving you an ID recovery plan, including steps like contacting banks or relevant authorities.

Think of the FTC as a helpful guide and record-keeper when dealing with identity theft. Although the FTC doesn't investigate or prosecute criminals itself, it collects reports from people who've experienced identity theft.

These statements go into an extensive database known as the Consumer Sentinel Network, which law enforcement can use to track down and stop identity thieves.

» Read these 10 nightmarish ID theft stories from real victims.

How to Report Identity Theft to the FTC

1. Gather Evidence

Collect any information about where and how your identity might've been stolen. Also, keep a record of the following:

  • Government-issued IDs: This may include your driver's license, passport, or other forms of government-issued identification to verify your identity.
  • Account information: Details of any accounts illegally opened in your name, such as credit card or bank accounts.
  • Evidence of fraudulent charges: Any documentation showing unauthorized transactions or payments on your accounts.
  • Utility invoices: In some cases, the relevant authorities may request a utility bill or statement to establish your identity and residence.
  • Additional supporting documents: Any other pertinent information or documents that support your identity theft claim.

2. Contact the Affected Company

If you suspect identity theft, immediately contact the credit card company or the relevant financial institution affected.

Work with them to identify and verify any fraudulent charges or activities. Also, follow their procedures to dispute unauthorized transactions and secure your information, which may include freezing or closing the account.

3. Visit the FTC Website

Go to identitytheft.gov or reportfraud.ftc.gov and fill out the necessary forms on the website to report the identity theft. Also, provide all the gathered evidence and details about the incident.

4. Create a Recovery Plan

After reporting, the FTC will guide you through creating a personal recovery plan. This checklist includes actions tailored to your specific situation. It may involve contacting banks, credit bureaus, and other institutions to alert them of the identity theft.

5. Protect Your Identity

Make sure to complete all the steps outlined by the FTC to protect your identity. You'll need to change passwords and update security questions for your accounts. You should also regularly check your bank and credit card statements for further unauthorized activity.

Additionally, keep an eye on your credit report and other financial accounts in the future to catch any potential identity theft early. You can request a free credit statement from each of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—once a year.

» Try these 10 essential strategies to prevent credit card fraud.

6. Follow Up

The FTC may provide updates or require additional information. Check your email and your identitytheft.gov/reportfraud.ftc.gov account for any communications.

Your Role in Identity Theft Recovery and Prevention

While agencies like the FTC provide valuable resources and guidance, they do not typically intervene in individual cases unless it's part of a larger investigation.

Once your identity has been stolen, you must manage the recovery process yourself. This means staying vigilant about your financial statements, regularly checking your credit reports, and ensuring all information is accurate.

If you notice more suspicious activities, notify the FTC and other relevant authorities immediately. The quicker you report the issue, the easier it is to limit the damage.

Preventive Measures

To prevent future incidents of identity theft, consider the following measures:

  • Use complex and unique passwords for each of your accounts.
  • Change your passwords periodically, especially for sensitive accounts related to banking and personal information.
  • Set up monitoring alerts with your financial institutions and credit bureaus to notify you of any unusual activities.
  • Be cautious about sharing personal information, especially online.
  • Stay informed about the latest methods identity thieves use to help you recognize potential threats and take appropriate action.
  • If you hear about a data breach at an institution where you have accounts, check if you're affected, then follow the institution's guidance on securing your information.

If you're overwhelmed, consider seeking assistance from an identity theft protection service like Aura or LifeLock. These firms monitor your credit and alert you to any unusual activities like new accounts opened in your name or unexpected changes in your credit score. They also often provide access to your credit reports.

In the unfortunate event of identity theft, some of these companies can guide you through the recovery process, helping you contact creditors and file necessary paperwork.

Enhance Your Defense Against Identity Theft

The FTC is a resource, not a force to save you. After someone steals your identity, it's your responsibility to follow up, check credit reports, and contain future incidents. Here, professional identity theft protection companies prove especially useful.

Using their services means you proactively manage your personal and financial security. It equips you to prevent and respond effectively to potential identity threats—not just report them.

» Take these 10 steps to protect your privacy online.

Christopher Somerville - Top10 writer
Chris Somerville, Top10 writer with a BA in Technical Writing, shines as Oregon Employment Dept's Supervisor & ID Theft Manager. Skilled in staffing, admin, legal analysis, project management, and customer service, he boasts a vast skill set, including magazine production and automotive marketing.