Reporting Identity Theft to the Police

Traditional Police Station Sign and Lantern
••• georgeclerk / Getty Images

No matter what type of identity theft it is, the first step in the recovery process is to obtain a police report. The second step is to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). While there is some debate about the order, the general rule of thumb is to get a police report before contacting the FTC. Either way, these two steps should happen at about the same time. Whichever you do first, you will want to reference the first complaint with the second.

Dealing With Law Enforcement

Reporting identity theft to the police is often a difficult experience for the victim. When you visit the police station, officers may not want to talk with you and instead may send you to a website to fill out a form. This may make you feel as though your complaint is not being taken seriously. It is important to know, however, that the police are primarily responsible for protecting people from imminent danger, and given that responsibility, identity theft is a low-impact crime, since the victim does not suffer any bodily harm.

Many victims have reported that the police would not even take an identity theft report from them. This has to do with jurisdiction and a given officer's level of training. The police typically deal with crimes that happen in the area where they work (e.g., city or county) and are not responsible for handling crimes that occur outside of their jurisdiction. State and federal authorities are usually brought into play in those cases. 

Training in the police force can also be spotty. If the crime is not a common one, training regarding that crime may be cursory, and may even be no more than an email or bulletin board posting.

Understanding State Laws

Some states have specific laws that address issues identity theft victims may face or have created certain processes for victims. You may want to contact your local attorney general's office to see if there is a specific process in your state for addressing identity theft police reports. You can find information for getting in touch with your local attorney general on the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG)'s website.

Filling Out the Police Report

When you get to the point of actually filling out a police report, you will want to provide more information than is normally given. If you know specific dates of fraudulent purchases, accounts that were opened in your name, businesses that were used, or have some idea who may be behind the theft, you will want to include all of that information in the report.

Once you have filed a police report, make sure you receive a copy of it. Your case may be assigned to an investigator, but again, do not expect a lot of activity unless you are one of several victims.

Being Your Own Sleuth

Most identity theft victims end up doing most of the actual investigating themselves. If that is the case, you will want to have photocopies of both the police report and your FTC complaint. These will be required by any company you get into a dispute with where the identity thief used your name. You should make sure to keep the originals for yourself. Some companies may ask you to have the reports notarized.

A company may refuse to give you information about disputed transactions or accounts, on grounds that it is protected by confidentiality. They may cite privacy policies or note that it is proprietary business information that they cannot provide without a court order. Do not get upset; instead, ask for the mailing address of their legal department, and mail them your request for information as to the disputed transactions or accounts. Companies are legally required to provide the requested information to you within 30 days, free of charge and without a subpoena.