How to Report Identity Theft to the FTC

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Reporting identity theft is a critical step toward fixing things when you've been a victim. The first step should always be calling your bank to get your account secured. After that, you should put a fraud alert on your credit report to stop things from going further. Then you can tackle the mess of clean-up.

Identify the Type of Theft

Of course, there are many types of identity theft. I refer to identity theft that affects your finances directly as "financial identity theft".

When it comes to reporting identity theft, you will need to take specific steps based on the type of identity theft you are facing. For financial identity theft, the biggest milestones to recovery are reporting the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and filing a police report.

The FTC has created an online Complaint Assistant that will help you to file your report. When you have gone through the complaint assistant, the last page will allow you to print a copy, which they refer to as their Fraud Affidavit.

Make Affidavit Copies (and Get Them Notarized)

You will want to make copies of the FTC Fraud Affidavit, because any business that you will be working with to resolve your identity theft issue will almost certainly want a copy. (You will always want to keep the original.)

You may want to get the copies notarized. Some companies feel this is an assurance that you are not making things up to get out of paying a legitimate debt.

This is not required by any law; however many companies act like their policies are more important than the laws, and will refuse to work with you if you don't follow their policies. It's easier to just save time up front and get the copies notarized before you send them out.

File a Police Report

The FTC site suggests having the Fraud Affidavit when you file your police report about the identity theft, although the online complaint assistant will ask you if you have already filed a police report.

It's really a matter of preference which one you file first, but chances are high that if the police report is filed first, the FTC will have an easier time determining that if the information is included in their Fraud Affidavit. For that reason, it is recommended to file the police report first. Once the police report is filed, you will want to copy down the case number, and get a copy of the full police report once it is available.

This part can be a waiting point, because different police departments have varying policies about how long they have to get a police report entered into their database – and you won't be able to get a copy of the police report until it has been entered into their system. For the sake of filling out the FTC Fraud Affidavit, all you will need is the police report number, the name of the police department, and the name of the individual officer who actually took the report. Once you get a copy of the actual police report, it is a good idea to have that notarized as well, for the same reasons you will want to get the Fraud Affidavit notarized.

Again, keep the original, and only provide copies when they are required by the businesses you will have to work with to resolve your problem.

FTC Fraud Affidavit vs. Your Police Report

The FTC Fraud Affidavit, along with the police report, are referred to as your Identity Theft Report by the FTC. You will want to be sure you know the difference, because the FTC will refer to them by these names, and to them there is a difference between the two.

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