How to Report Identity Theft

Quick Answer

You can report identity theft to your creditors, financial institutions and other relevant organizations. Additionally, take steps to secure your online accounts and keep criminals from using your identity to commit other crimes.

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Reporting identity theft and closing fraudulent accounts can be an important part of stopping the fraudsters and recovering your identity. Unfortunately, you can't get your personal information back once it's out there, which means identity thieves can continually attempt to use your identity to commit crimes. However, you can take steps to secure your accounts and limit what others can do with your personal information.

How to Report Identity Theft

Depending on what the identity thieves stole and how they use it, you may want to report the identity theft to various organizations. Here's a list of 10 steps you may want to take if you suspect or know someone stole your identity.

1. Report the Fraud to Your Creditors

Identity thieves may try to access and use your credit accounts and open new loans or credit cards in your name. Contact each of the creditors where you've noticed unauthorized account activity and notify them that you've been affected by identity theft and credit fraud.

The creditor can work with you to reverse the transactions and close the accounts. They may also send an update to the credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax—to have the fraudulent accounts removed from your credit reports. But if they don't, you have the right to contact the credit bureaus on your own and dispute the entries (step nine below).

2. Notify Other Companies, Agencies and Service Providers

Criminals may also use your personal information to:

Although you likely won't experience all of these at once, you will want to report the identity theft and fraudulent transactions or requests to every relevant organization. These may include:

  • Financial institutions: Contact banks and credit unions if you notice unauthorized transactions or think someone opened a bank account in your name.
  • The IRS: The IRS might send you a letter if they suspect that someone stole your identity and ask you to verify your identity. You should also report the identity theft if you suspect tax fraud.
  • Health care providers: If someone used your information to get medical care, contact your medical care providers to report errors in your medical records. Including copies of your records with the errors highlighted or circled might help.
  • The USPS: Send a report to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) if you think someone stole your identity by stealing your mail.
  • Your state's motor vehicle department: If the thieves stole your driver's license or driver's license information, report the theft to your state's department of motor vehicles.

There might be other organizations that you need to inform as well, such as your state's tax department or the state agency responsible for unemployment claims.

3. File a Report With the Federal Trade Commission

Submit a report to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on The FTC will then create an FTC Identity Theft Report, which you can use to report the identity theft to some organizations and correct your accounts.

The FTC will also create a personalized recovery plan based on your circumstances. If you create an account on the FTC's websites, you can save your plan, get help completing the steps with pre-filled forms and update your plan.

4. Consider Filing a Police Report

You can report the identity theft to your local police department as well. The police might be able to investigate if the identity thieves got your personal information after stealing your wallet or mail.

Even if the local police department might not be able to help—such as when the identity thieves live in a different country—a police report can be important. Some organizations might ask you for a copy of the report before investigating your fraud claim.

5. Update Your Accounts' Passwords and Security Settings

The identity thieves might gain access to your online accounts. As a precautionary measure, update the passwords on your accounts that contain personal information, including your financial accounts, social media profiles and email.

Use a unique password for each account and don't use a common theme or pattern. A password manager can make creating and filling in these passwords much easier. Alternatively, a password manager might be able to create passkeys for your accounts, which could be an even safer option.

Also, review the security settings in your accounts. If multifactor authentication (MFA) is an option, enable MFA to help keep fraudsters out of your account even if they're able to guess or crack your password.

6. Add a Fraud Alert to Your Credit Reports

You have the right to add a fraud alert to your credit reports for free if you think you might be at an increased risk for credit fraud. The alert lets creditors who request your credit report know that you may be a victim of identity theft, and that they should take extra steps to verify your identity.

Once you add a fraud alert to one credit report, that credit bureau will pass on your request to the other two. These initial fraud alerts stay on your reports for one year, although you can renew the alert if you want.

Alternatively, you can request an extended fraud alert, which will stay on your reports for seven years. However, you may need to submit a copy of a police report or identity theft report when requesting an extended fraud alert.

7. Add Security Freezes to Your Consumer Reports

You also have the right to add security freezes to various types of consumer reports, which limits access to these reports. If an identity thief tries to open a new account in your name, the organization might not be able to review your report and won't approve the application.

For example, three types of reports that you can freeze and unfreeze for free are:

  • Credit reports: Freezing your credit reports could stop creditors from approving new loan or credit card applications. You'll need to request a credit freeze with each credit bureau separately.
  • ChexSystems report: Freezing your ChexSystem report might keep identity thieves from opening deposit accounts in your name because many banks and credit unions review a ChexSystems report before approving new accounts.
  • NCTUE: The National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange (NCTUE) maintains records of your payments with utility, telecommunication, pay TV and home security companies. Freezing the report might help keep someone from opening one of these types of accounts.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau maintains a list of consumer reporting companies and information on if and how you can freeze various types of reports.

Similarly, you can request a free Identity Protection PIN from the IRS. The IRS will then reject tax return filings with your information if the return doesn't include the PIN.

8. Check Your Credit Report for Signs of Fraud

You may want to closely review your three credit reports for signs of identity theft, such as an account you didn't open or an unusual alias or address in your personal information. If you spot any, you can contact the creditors to close the fraudulent accounts. You also have the right to dispute inaccurate information with the credit bureaus.

9. Dispute Inaccurate Information on Your Credit Report

Creditors may send updates to all three credit bureaus after you report fraudulent accounts or activity to them. Additionally, you have the right to file a dispute with each of the three credit bureaus directly if there's inaccurate information in your credit reports. The credit bureau can then investigate the account or information and either verify what's being reported, update or delete the information.

10. Regularly Monitor Your Credit

Monitoring your credit reports can help you spot identity theft early.

For example, an identity thief might apply for a new credit card in your name and have the card mailed to a different address or monitor your mailbox and steal the card when it's delivered. However, the credit application could result in a hard inquiry, and credit monitoring tools might send you an immediate alert. You can then take steps to close the account before the fraudster can receive or use the card.

Experian's free credit monitoring will warn you about changes and potentially suspicious activity in your credit file, including new credit inquiries.

Fraud Alerts and Security Freezes May Affect Your Ability to Open New Accounts

Although fraud alerts and security freezes can help limit the damage that an identity thief can do, it's also important to remember that you've added these security measures to your reports.

For example, if you try to open a new credit account or take out a loan, your application might be denied if your credit reports are frozen. It's an easy fix—you can temporarily thaw your reports or unfreeze them for free online, by phone or by mail. But it's an extra step that you'll want to remember to take before applying.

Consider Additional Monitoring and Recovery Services

Free credit monitoring can help you detect identity theft and stop identity fraud. But it only monitors your credit reports. Paid premium memberships for some identity monitoring programs come with additional types of monitoring, such as Social Security number and financial account monitoring. They may also include fraud resolution support and identity theft insurance, which could help cover costs related to recovering your identity.