Identity theft can have psychological, emotional and physical consequences. Victims and their families spend months and sometimes years trying to undo the damage and reclaim their good name. Many victims of identity theft are targeted repeatedly, because stolen personally identifying information is often traded within a vast web of criminals operating nationally and internationally. The impact and costs to victims in terms of out-of-pocket expenses, time spent and emotional effects are significantly smaller when the fraud is discovered early.
The information below walks you through the process of regaining your identity in good standing. In addition to these resources, the New York State Department of State Division of Consumer Protection Identity Theft Prevention and Mitigation Program provides direct assistance and guidance to victims in addressing the consequences of this crime.
Basic Response Steps
Consumers should respond quickly if they suspect or know that they are a victim of identity theft. Responding quickly may minimize the damage.
Below are the first steps consumers should take if they believe they have fallen victim to identity theft. Additional response actions are also provided.
File a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Identity Theft Affidavit and a Police Report
You can file a complaint with the FTC using its online complaint form; or call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261; or write to the Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.
Be sure to call the Hotline to update your complaint if you have any additional information or problems. By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials across the nation track down and stop identity thieves.
You should also inform your local police and obtain a police report, which documents that you are an identity theft victim. The report will help you obtain receipts and transaction records from stores, credit card companies and other businesses used by the identity thief. The police report may improve your chances of obtaining compensation or restitution if the case is prosecuted. Under a New York State law, promoted by the New York State Department of State Division of Consumer Protection, police departments in the State are required to take a report from a suspected victim of identity theft and give him/her a free copy.
You can also provide the police with a printed copy of your online FTC complaint form so that it can be incorporated into the police report. The printed FTC Identity Theft Complaint, in conjunction with the police report, can constitute an Identity Theft Report under the law and entitle you to certain protections. An Identity Theft Report can be used to (1) permanently block fraudulent information from appearing on your credit report; (2) ensure that debts resulting from the fraud do not reappear on your credit report; (3) prevent a company from continuing to collect debts caused by the incidence of identity theft; and, (4) place an extended Fraud Alert on your credit report.
Notify the Credit Reporting Agencies: Place a Fraud Alert or Security Freeze
One of the first steps you should take if you fall victim to identity theft is to notify any one of the three credit reporting agencies. The credit reporting agency you notify is responsible for informing the other two agencies on your behalf. You may want to consider notifying all three agencies to ensure they are aware of your situation. To help prevent further victimization, you can place a Fraud Alert or a Security Freeze on your credit report. The Division has resources to assist in understanding how to place a Fraud Alert or Security Freeze, and the difference between the two tools.
- Identity Theft Mitigation at a Glance (Fraud Alert vs. Security Freeze)
- Sample Letters to the Three Major credit reporting Agencies for a Security Freeze
You will also want to check your credit report for discrepancies, such as open accounts you do not recognize and did not authorize. More information regarding credit reports can be found on Check Your Credit Reports Regularly For Free page.
As an identity theft victim, you should notify all banks, creditors, utilities, insurance carriers, phone, Internet service and cable television providers, libraries and organizations where your personally identifying information was compromised. You may also consider closing bank and credit card accounts, and requesting new account numbers and PINs.
Keeping Track of Your Steps
As you are working through the steps toward restoring your good name, you are encouraged to keep a record of your efforts.
Keep detailed records of the entities you contacted and the information you provided.
Keep detailed records and receipts of all expenses incurred and time lost in rectifying the identity theft and reclaiming your good name.
Special Populations Response
Active military personnel and victims of domestic violence can be the targets of identity theft. There are additional considerations and protections for members of these populations to help prevent and deal with the consequences of identity theft.
Victims of Domestic Violence and Identity Theft
Victims of domestic violence are particularly vulnerable to identity theft and often need to take extra precautions to protect themselves from abusers who may use their personally identifying information as a means of control. This resource, developed by the New York State Department of State Division of Consumer Protection and the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, provides useful information to assist victims of domestic violence in recovering from identity theft
Armed Forces and Veterans: Privacy Basic Training
Active military personnel, veterans and their families are especially vulnerable to identity theft and fraud due to nonstandard work schedules, lengthy absences from home, frequent relocations and duty assignments to remote locations. To honor the unselfish service of our armed forces, the Division, in conjunction with the New York State Division of Veterans' Affairs, developed this resource. These tips can help prevent our service men and women from falling victim to identity theft and can assist in mitigating the consequences of this fraud.