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How to Handle Identity Theft

Order your credit reports from all three nationwide credit reporting companies

Each company’s credit report about you is slightly different, so order a report from each company. When you order, you must answer some questions to prove your identity. Read your reports carefully to see if the information is correct. If you see mistakes or signs of fraud, contact the credit reporting company to take further action.

Report identity theft

Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at or 877.438.4338. You’ll answer some questions about what happened and they'll use your information to:

  • Create a personal recovery plan
  • Prefill letters to send to merchants, banks and others affected by the identity theft
  • Complete an “Identity Theft Report,” which is your official statement about the crime

In most cases, you can use your Identity Theft Report in place of a police report to clear your account and credit history of transactions that resulted from the identity theft.

Contact the police to report identity theft if:

  • You know who did it or have information that could help a police investigation
  • An identity thief used your name in a traffic stop or any encounter with police
  • If you're asked to produce a police report

Consider a credit protection tool

There are three types of credit protection tools you can request from credit reporting companies: a security freeze, an initial fraud alert or an extended fraud alert.

protection tool

Security Freeze

A freeze on your credit report generally helps prevent new credit accounts from being opened in your name. Usually, third-party-access to your credit file is completely blocked from new users without your express authorization.

A freeze helps prevent identity thieves from opening fraudulent accounts in your name. This also means you won’t be able to apply for credit as easily if you were planning to open a new account or apply for a loan.

You must contact each of the credit reporting companies to freeze your credit report. You will have to contact them to lift the freeze before a third-party can access your credit report.

Initial Fraud Alert

An initial fraud alert requires creditors to verify your identity before opening a new account, issuing an additional card, or increasing the credit limit on an existing account. This is a good first step if you’re worried your identity may be stolen, like after a data breach. The alert lasts for one year and can be renewed after it expires.

Extended Fraud Alert

An extended fraud alert requires creditors to contact you before approving credit and lasts for seven years. It also requires credit reporting companies to remove you from lists prepared for prescreen offers of credit or insurance for five years. This is available if you've filed an identity theft report with one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies.

Credit Protection
Credit Protection & Requirements Security Freeze Initial Alert Extended Alert

Lender is required to verify your identity before approving new credit

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Completely prevents your report from being shared with most third parties unless lifted


Triggers heightened verification procedures for the people who use your credit report

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Request if you believe you're a victim of ID theft

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Requires an identity theft report


Extra free credit report

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Exclusion from prescreening lists


Free in every state

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Contact info for the three nationwide credit reporting companies

Equifax Security Freeze
PO Box 105788
Atlanta GA 30348

Experian Security Freeze
PO Box 9554
Allen TX 75013

PO Box 2000
Chester PA 19016

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