How to report identity theft

Millions of people are affected by identity theft each year, and with more and more data breaches and sophisticated social engineering attacks, that number only continues to grow. 

No one ever plans to be a victim of identity theft, but if someone does steal your information, who do you report identity theft to? We look at what identity theft is and the steps to reporting it.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone commits fraud using your personal data, including your name, address, Social Security Number, and credit card information. This can include making unauthorized purchases, opening credit cards in your name, stealing your tax refund, or making withdrawals from your bank account.

Step 1: Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Credit card companies, financial institutions, and the police might require an FTC report, which proves that someone has stolen your personal information, so the first step is to file an identity theft complaint with the FTC online or by calling 1-877-438-4338. Filling out a complaint online will generate an ID theft affidavit, a personalized recovery plan, as well as letters and forms you’ll need.

Step 2: Consider filing a police report for identity theft

A police report for identity theft could help prove your innocence for any crimes the identity thief committed using your name. Filing a police report for identity theft is also a good idea since banks and creditors may require one when you contest fraudulent charges.

While you can and should file a police report for identity theft, oftentimes local agencies can’t investigate the crime since the thief may be in another state or country—outside the local police department’s jurisdiction.

There are certain types of identity theft where it’s especially important to file a police report with your local law enforcement. These situations include:

  • You know who stole your personal information. If you suspect an acquaintance, roommate, or family member is using your identity, the police may be able to investigate.
  • Your identity was used during a police encounter. Say the identity thief was arrested or stopped by the police and used your name and address. Filing a police report for identity theft can help you avoid penalties and clear your name of any potential crimes you didn’t commit.
  • Your creditors require proof of fraud. As previously mentioned, credit bureaus, banks, and credit card companies may require proof that your information was used illegally. Providing an identity theft police report can help you resolve disputes on your credit card and banking statements, as well as remove fraudulent information on credit reports.

How do I file a police report for identity theft?

Depending on your local police department, you may have to call and speak to a detective or investigator. Many agencies will have an online portal where you can file a police report. The police will want to know how you discovered the identity theft, so gather any relevant credit card statements, IRS communications, or collections notices.

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Step 3: Alert the 3 major credit bureaus

If you suspect that you’re a victim of identity theft, you should contact the 3 major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—to alert them of the fraudulent activity.

Requesting a fraud alert

You can request a 90-day fraud alert on your credit report that lets creditors and lenders know that your information has been stolen. This helps prevent someone from taking out any new loans or opening a new account. While you only need to contact one of the major credit bureaus (the one you alert will contact the other two) to get a fraud alert for your credit report, it’s not a guaranteed way to prevent fraudulent accounts as some creditors may not conduct a thorough check before opening a new line of credit.

If you find evidence someone has used your information illegally, you can also extend the fraud alert to 7 years.

Freeze your credit

Putting a freeze on your credit report is an important step to help lessen the potential damage of identity theft. A credit freeze—also known as a security freeze—will prevent anyone from opening new credit card accounts or taking a loan out in your name without a PIN. Unlike a fraud alert, you’ll need to contact each of the 3 credit bureaus individually to request a credit freeze. After you verify your identity with the 3 bureaus, they’ll each provide you with a PIN that you can use to freeze or unfreeze your credit file.

How to report identity theft to the 3 credit bureaus

You can contact the 3 credit bureaus to request a fraud alert and credit freeze online or by calling their toll-free, automated phone numbers.


Experian fraud center



Equifax fraud alerts



TransUnion fraud alerts


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Step 4: Contact banks, financial institutions, & credit card companies

Immediately contact your bank, financial institution, or credit card company about any unauthorized accounts and unfamiliar charges. You may need to send them your ID theft affidavit from the FTC and a police report to prove that your information has been stolen.

Continue to monitor your accounts and statements and call to report any unauthorized activity. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, your liability is limited to $50 for charges made without your permission, but most credit card issuers have a zero-liability policy for fraudulent charges if you promptly report the loss.

You may also want to consider canceling any accounts that were compromised and requesting new account numbers, cards, and PINs.

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Step 5: Update usernames & passwords for your online accounts

Turn on 2-factor authentication for your online accounts.

If you’ve suffered any kind of identity theft, you should update your passwords and login credentials for any financial accounts and websites you access, including bill pay and social media sites. Turn on 2-factor authentication wherever it’s available for added security. 

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Step 6: Check your credit reports

As a victim of identity theft, you’re entitled to get free copies of your credit report from the credit bureaus. When you receive your credit reports, look for any accounts you don’t recognize. Call the credit bureau at the phone number listed on the report to block or remove any information that is the result of identity theft. You’ll most likely need to send an identity theft police report for the bureau to complete this request.

ProtectMyID Essential, Deluxe, and Platinum benefits: Credit monitoring from Experian monitors your credit report(s) and alerts you to critical changes. You can also get identity theft help from a U.S.-based fraud resolution agent who will support you step-by-step to investigate and restore your identity.

Learn more and sign up for ProtectMyID

Experian identity theft protection 

AAA members get free Experian identity theft protection1 with ProtectMyID Essential, or 2 free months of ProtectMyID Deluxe or Platinum with promo code 60FREE23. Plus, get 2 free additional months by choosing annual payments.2

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