How to Report Financial Identity Theft to the FTC
Reporting identity theft is a critical step toward protecting yourself and your finances when you've been a victim. The first step should always be calling your bank to get your accounts secured. Next, it's a good idea to put a fraud alert on your credit report to help stem the tide of potential attempts to access current accounts or create new ones in your name. Then you can tackle the mess of cleanup.
First Steps for Identity Theft Recovery
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 file your report. When you have gone through the Complaint Assistant, the last page will allow you to print a copy of a document, which they refer to as their Fraud Affidavit.
The online FTC reporting site will take you through a series of questions to gather information about the theft:
- What type of identity theft are you reporting?
- What did the identity thief use your information for?
- How was the information misused?
- Which bank is your account with?
- When did you first notice the problem?
- When did fraudulent charges or uses of your identity first begin?
- Estimate the total fraudulent charges
- Do you know anything about the person who stole your identity?
- Have you reviewed a copy of your credit report?
- Have you reported the theft to the police?
- Was your personal information exposed through the theft?
- Has a debt collector contacted you about a debt incurred as a result of identity theft?
- Tell us what happened in your own words.
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 upfront 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 it is generally recommended that you 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. 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 and Identity Theft Report
The FTC Fraud Affidavit, along with the police report, are together referred to as your Identity Theft Report by the FTC. You will want to be sure you know the terminology, because the FTC will refer to the reports by these names, and there is a difference between the two.