Cyber Security and Fraud: Responding to Online Identity Theft

Cyber Security and Fraud: Responding to Online Identity Theft article image.
Dear Experian,

A bank notified me that an online account was opened using my personal information. I did not open this account and informed the bank of same. They suggested I contact you. What do I do?


Dear TEM,

You've already taken an important first step — notifying the creditor that the account that was opened was done so fraudulently.

It can be overwhelming to learn you've been a victim of identity theft. As in your case, crimes involving identity theft and credit fraud are often committed online.

The bank should have provided details for the steps you must take to assist them in their investigation, such as signing a fraud affidavit.

Steps to Take When You're a Victim Of Online Identity Theft

In addition to working with the bank that contacted you, there are some steps you can take to help protect yourself from further incidents of credit fraud or identity theft:

  • Request an initial security alert be added to your credit reports. The quickest way to do this is by going online to Experian's Fraud Center. Once added, Experian will automatically notify the other two national credit reporting agencies so that they can add an alert as well.
  • Check your credit reports. Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three national credit reporting agencies and review them carefully for any sign of credit fraud. As a victim of identity theft, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report. You can request the free copy of your Experian credit report at the same time as you add the alert.
  • Review your credit report carefully for signs of identity theft or fraud. Check for any unfamiliar accounts, charges, inquiries, or personal information, such as an address you've never used. Notify Experian immediately if you see anything that may be fraud-related. You can dispute information quickly and easily online.
  • Consider filing a police report. Filing a police report or identity theft report with law enforcement gives you a record of the fraud. You may be asked to provide this report to creditors to assist in their investigation of any accounts opened or used fraudulently in your name. And, you will need to provide a copy of this report to Experian should you wish to extend your initial security alert by adding a 7-year victim statement to your credit report.
  • Add an extended fraud alert. Your initial security alert will remain on the report for twelve months. If you determine that the fraud may be ongoing, you may wish to add an extended 7-year alert, or fraud victim statement, to your credit report. To do so, you will need to provide Experian with a copy of your identity theft report.
  • Determine whether you need a Security Freeze. Freezing your credit file prevents potential new lenders from accessing your credit report without the freeze first being lifted by you. If you are planning to apply for credit in the near future it may be better to not freeze your credit file, or to postpone freezing it until you no longer need access to the credit marketplace. You also have the option to lift your freeze temporarily. You can freeze your credit file for free.

Thank you for asking.
Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist