The Facts

The Federal Trade Commission reported an astonishing 2,930 percent annual increase in the number of identity theft cases in 2020 . Criminals will always find new ways to commit fraud, but this increase stems from the trillions of federal dollars given in COVID-19 relief bills. So, the main question is, what actions are necessary to resolve identity theft issues if it happens to you or a family member. Below we will address a few items that might help.

Put a Freeze on your Reports

The first step is to put a freeze on your credit reports with each credit bureau so no more damage is done. Contact each credit bureau by phone to complete this step.

Equifax
800-685-1111

Experian
888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)

Transunion
888-909-8872

You'll need to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information. After receiving your freeze request, each credit bureau will provide you with a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. You will need it if you choose to lift the freeze.

File a Report

Next, The Federal Trade Commission recommends filing a complaint with them, and then printing a copy of the report and using it to file a police report with your local law enforcement. The FTC calls this document an identity theft affidavit, and says it can be a helpful document to use when you’re dealing with the companies where the fraudulent accounts were opened, as well as the credit reporting agencies.

You can file a report online, or by calling the FTC’s Consumer Response Center at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). Essentially the FTC files these complaints which allow law enforcement to use this information to combat fraud.

Your complaint will be more useful if you provide:

  • Name, address, phone number, email
  • The product or service involved
  • The company or seller’s name, address, phone number, website, email, representative’s name
  • Transaction information: the amount paid, how you paid, the date of the transaction

Dispute Those Accounts

Next, you will use the information you obtained from the FTC and the police report to send the following letters. Beware each letter represented is a little different. This information is directly from the FTC Consumer Information guidelines.

Identity Theft Dispute Letter to Credit Bureaus

[Date]

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[Your City, State, Zip Code]

(Write to each relevant credit reporting agency, one at a time:)

Equifax
P.O. Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348-5069

-or-

Experian
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013

-or-

TransUnion
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016

[RE: Your Account Number (if known)]

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am a victim of identity theft. The information listed below, which appears on my credit report, does not relate to any transaction(s) that I have made. It is the result of identity theft.

[Identify item(s) resulting from the identity theft that should be blocked, by name of the source, such as the credit card issuer or bank, and type of item, such as credit account, checking account, etc.]

Please block this information from my credit report, pursuant to section 605B of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and send the required notifications to all furnishers of this information.

Enclosed are the following:

  • A copy of my credit report I received from your company. The fraudulent items are circled.
  • A copy of my Identity Theft Report and proof of my identity.
  • A copy of section 605B of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which requires you to block the fraudulent information on my credit report resulting from identity theft within four business days and to promptly notify the furnisher(s) of that information.

I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter, and await your reply.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Enclosures: [List what you are enclosing]

  • Identity Theft Affidavit
  • Proof of identity: [a copy of my driver’s license/other government-issued identification card/other]
  • Copy of Credit Report

Identity Theft Dispute Letter to a Credit Furnisher (for a new account)

[Date]

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[Your City, State, Zip Code]

[Name of Company]
[Fraud Department (companies may specify an address to receive fraud dispute letters), or Billing Inquiries Department]
[Address]
[City, State, Zip Code]

[RE: Your Account Number (if known)]

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am a victim of identity theft. I recently learned that my personal information was used to open an account at your company. I did not open or authorize this account, and I therefore request that it be closed immediately. I also request that [Company Name] absolve me of all charges on the account, and that you take all appropriate steps to remove information about this account from my credit files.

Enclosed is a copy of my Identity Theft Report supporting my position, and a copy of my credit report showing the fraudulent items related to your company that are the result of identity theft. [Consumers should redact information that is unrelated to the dispute with this company.] Also enclosed is a copy of the FTC Notice to Furnishers of Information, which details your responsibilities as an information furnisher to credit reporting agencies (CRAs). As a furnisher, upon receipt of a consumer’s written request that encloses an Identity Theft Report, you are required to cease furnishing the information resulting from identity theft to any CRA.

The Notice also specifies your responsibilities when you receive notice from a CRA, under section 605B of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, that information you provided to the CRA may be the result of identity theft. Those responsibilities include ceasing to provide the inaccurate information to any CRAs and ensuring that you do not attempt to sell or transfer the fraudulent debts to another party for collection.

Please investigate this matter, close the account and absolve me of all charges, take the steps required under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and send me a letter explaining your findings and actions.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Enclosures: [List what you are enclosing]

  • Identity Theft Affidavit
  • Copy of Credit Report

Identity Theft Dispute Letter to a Credit Furnisher (for an existing account)

[Date]

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[Your City, State, Zip Code]

[Name of Company]
[Fraud Department (companies may specify an address to receive fraud dispute letters), or Billing Inquiries Department]
[Address]
[City, State, Zip Code]

[RE: Your Account Number (if known)]

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to dispute [a] fraudulent charge(s) on my account in the amount(s) of $______, and posted on [dates]. I am a victim of identity theft, and I did not make [this/these] charge(s). I request that you remove the fraudulent charge(s) and any related finance charge and other charges from my account, send me an updated and accurate statement, and close the account (if applicable). I also request that you cease reporting the inaccurate information to all of the nationwide credit reporting agencies (CRAs) to which you provided it.

Enclosed is a copy of my Identity Theft Report supporting my position, and a copy of my credit report showing the fraudulent items related to your company that are the result of identity theft. [Consumers should redact information that is unrelated to the dispute with this company.] Also enclosed is a copy of the Notice to Furnishers issued by the Federal Trade Commission, which details your responsibilities under the Fair Credit Reporting Act as an information furnisher to CRAs. The Notice also specifies your responsibilities when you receive notice from a CRA, under section 605B of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, that information you provided to the CRA may be the result of identity theft. Those responsibilities include ceasing to provide the inaccurate information to any CRAs, and ensuring that you do not attempt to sell or transfer the fraudulent debts to another party for collection.

Please investigate this matter and send me a written explanation of your findings and actions.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Enclosures: [List what you are enclosing]

  • Identity Theft Affidavit
  • Proof of identity: [a copy of my driver’s license/other government-issued identification card/other]
  • Credit report with disputed information indicated

The Bottom Line

Identity Theft and Fraud happen everyday and is definitely not a pleasurable process to get cleaned up. Just know, it's a crime to use fraud as a tactic with the Credit Bureaus to delete negative items on your report and the penalties can be stiff. If you are a true victim of fraud, use the steps above to ensure everything is corrected so you can move on with your life. Be persistent and know it's going to take some patience while going through the process. Remember, you will not accomplish anything without going through the FTC and filing a police report along with the follow up of letters.