Identity Theft

What to do if someone steals your ID

Identity Theft: Credit bureaus

A Publication of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

1. Notify credit bureaus and establish fraud alerts.

Immediately report the situation to the fraud department of the three credit reporting companies -- Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. When you notify one bureau that you are at risk of being a victim of identity theft, it will notify the other two for you. Placing the fraud alert means that your file will be flagged and that creditors are required to call you before extending credit. Consider using a cell phone number if you have one.

We recommend that you do not choose to call Experian. You will be subject to a marketing pitch for their "free" credit management tools. If you fail to cancel the service within 30 days, your credit card will automatically be charged for the service.

  • Equifax: P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374- 0241.
    Report fraud: Call (888) 766-0008 and write to address above.
    TDD: (800) 255-0056

  • Experian: PO Box 9532
    Allen TX, 75013
    Report fraud: Call (888) EXPERIAN (888-397-3742) and write to address above.
    TDD: Use relay to fraud number above.

  • TransUnion: P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790.
    Report fraud: (800) 680-7289 and write to address above.
    TDD: (877) 553-7803
    E-mail (fraud victims only):

Under new provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA, §605A) you can place an initial fraud alert for only 90 days. The credit bureaus will each mail you a notice of your rights as an identity theft victim. Once you receive them, contact each of the three bureaus immediately to request two things:

  • a free copy of your credit report
  •  an extension of the fraud alert to seven years

You may request that only the last four digits of your Social Security number (SSN) appear on the credit report.

You must have evidence of attempts to open fraudulent accounts and an identity theft report (police report) to establish the seven-year alert. You may cancel the fraud alerts at any time.

In all communications with the credit bureaus, you will want to refer to the unique number assigned to your credit report and use certified, return receipt mail. Be sure to save all credit reports as part of your fraud documentation file.

Once you have received your three credit reports, examine each one carefully. Report fraudulent accounts and erroneous information in writing to both the credit bureaus and the credit issuers following the instructions provided with the credit reports. The FTC’s identity theft guide provides a sample letter to send to the credit bureaus requesting that fraudulent accounts be blocked. (scroll down to find letter)

Once you notify the credit bureaus about the fraudulent accounts, the bureau is required to block that information from future reports. The bureau must also notify the credit grantor of the fraudulent account. (FCRA, §605B) Ask the credit bureaus for names and phone numbers of credit grantors with whom fraudulent accounts have been opened if this information is not included on the credit report.

In addition, instruct the credit bureaus in writing to remove inquiries that have been generated due to the fraudulent access. You may also ask the credit bureaus to notify those who have received your credit report in the last six months to alert them to the disputed and erroneous information (two years for employers). Under California law, when you provide a copy of the police report to the credit bureaus, they must remove the fraudulent accounts from your credit report. (California Civil Code 1785.16(k))

1a. Monitor your credit reports.

Be aware that these measures may not entirely prevent new fraudulent accounts from being opened by the imposter. Credit issuers do not always pay attention to fraud alerts, even though the law now requires it. That is why we recommend that you check your credit reports again in a few months.

The federal FACTA law enables you to receive a free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus. (FCRA §612) This is over and above the free reports you can order when you place fraud alerts on your three credit reports. Once you have received your free credit reports as a part of the fraud-alert process, follow up in a few months by taking advantage of your free FACTA copy. We recommend that you order your free credit reports by phone rather than using the online system. Call (877) 322-8228.

For more on free credit reports, see and

Laws in several states give individuals additional opportunities to obtain free credit reports. For confirmed identity theft victims who live in California, you can get one free report each month for the first 12 months upon request. (California Civil Code 1785.15.3) And in seven states, whether a victim or not, you can receive one free credit report each year under state law, over and above the free FACTA report you can receive yearly under federal law. These states are: Colorado, Georgia (2 per year), Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont.

1b. Security freeze.

As of November 2007, individuals nationwide are able to "freeze" their credit reports with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. By freezing your credit reports, you can prevent credit issuers from accessing your credit files except when you give permission. This effectively prevents thieves from opening up new credit card and loan accounts. In most states, security freezes are available at no charge to identity theft victims and for a relatively small fee for non-victims.

If your identity thief is aggressive and gives no indication of ceasing to use your identity to obtain credit, consider using the security freeze to reduce access to your credit file. The security freeze is free to victims of identity theft in most states. Non-victims who wish to activate the security freeze for prevention must pay a fee in most states. Some states make the security freeze available only to identity theft victims.



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