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Recovering From ID Theft

Education & Planning


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If you are a victim of ID theft, follow these steps as soon as possible

If you are a victim of identity (ID) theft, report it immediately. The Federal Trade Commission and your local police department are critical in filing the complaint. Once you file the ID theft with the FTC, you will have an ID theft affidavit.

Print and take this with you to file the crime with the local police and get a police report. These two documents together are your identity theft report. Your identity theft report will be very important as you resolve the problem with creditors, banks, and any other companies where fraudulent accounts were set up in your name. You may also report specific types of identity theft to other agencies.

  • Long-term Care Identity Theft - Report a claim to the long-term care ombudsman in your state, if the theft was a result of a stay in a nursing home or long-term care facility.
  • Medical Identity Theft - Contact your health insurance company’s fraud department or Medicare’s fraud office.
  • Tax Identity Theft - Report this type of ID theft to the Internal Revenue Service and your state’s Department of Taxation or Revenue.
In addition to federal government agencies, you should also report the theft to other organizations, such as:
  • Credit Reporting Agencies - Contact the three major credit reporting agencies to place fraud alerts or freezes on your accounts so that no one can apply for credit with your name or social security number. Also get copies of your credit reports, to be sure that no one has already tried to get unauthorized credit accounts with your personal information.
  • Financial Institutions - Contact the fraud department at your bank, credit card issuers and any other places where you have accounts. You may need your ID theft reports from the police and Federal Trade Commission in order to report the fraud. 
  • Retailers and Other Companies - You will also need to report the fraud to companies where the identity thief created accounts, opened credit accounts, or even applied for jobs in order to clear your name.
  • State Consumer Protection Offices or Attorney General - Your state may offer resources to help you contact creditors, dispute errors and other helpful resources.

Synthetic ID Theft

Synthetic identity theft is a new version of identity theft. In traditional ID theft, the thief steals all of the personal information of one person to create a new identity. However, with synthetic ID theft, a thief steals pieces of information from different people to create a new identity. For example, the thief may steal one person’s social security number, combine it with another person’s name, and use someone else’s address to create a brand new identity. The thief can then use this fraudulent identity to apply for credit, rent an apartment, or make major purchases.

Unfortunately, synthetic ID theft is difficult to detect because the fraud isn’t directly tied to just one person. Fraud alerts and monitoring services would not be able to stop or prevent these scams. Also, children’s social security numbers are often targeted in these frauds, because no one would be checking their credit scores until they are much older.

While you cannot prevent synthetic ID theft, you should still get copies of your credit report to check for accounts you did not open. Also, contact the credit reporting agencies to ask if there is a fragmented file (a sub-account that uses your social security number but not your name) attached to your main credit file. If this is the case, you may be the victim of synthetic identity theft. Report all cases of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission.

Tax-Related Identity Theft

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security Number (SSN) to get a tax refund or a job. These tips can help you prevent and report tax identity theft:

Warning Signs

To prevent tax identity theft, be wary of any Internal Revenue Service (IRS) letter or notice that states:

  • More than one tax return was filed using your SSN.
  • You owe additional tax, you have had a tax refund offset, or you have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
  • IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.

The IRS does not initiate contact with a taxpayer by sending an e-mail, text, or social message requesting personal or financial information.

Dealing with Tax-Related Identity Theft

If you suspect someone used your Social Security Number (SSN) for a tax refund or a job—or the IRS sends you a letter or notice indicating a problem—take these steps: 

  • File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can also call the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338 or TTY 1-866-653-4261.
  • Contact one of the three major credit agencies to place a fraud alert on your credit records:
  • Contact your financial institutions, and close any accounts opened without your permission or tampered with.
  • Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided. If instructed, go to the Identity Verification Service.
  • Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit; print, then mail or fax according to instructions.
  • Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.