If you’ve been the victim of identity theft, you can take steps to reclaim your good name and restore your credit. To make certain that you do not become responsible for any debts incurred in your name by an identity thief, you must prove that you didn’t create the debt.
Taking action quickly is important, so don’t delay. Create a personalized recovery plan at IdentityTheft.gov that walks you through each step of the process. You can use the site to print pre-filled letters & forms to send to credit bureaus, businesses, and debt collectors; track your progress of recovering from identity theft; and update your plan.
Maintain good notes on all of your dealings with creditors and law enforcement.
Write down dates, contact names, addresses, phone numbers, and other details. Request written confirmation of actions that have been taken regarding to your case.
Track Time & Money Spent
Track how much time and money you spend to clear up the problem, in case you’re able to get restitution from the thief.
Keep Your Originals
When you send documents, send photocopies rather than the original. Send items by certified mail, return receipt requested.
File a Police Report, Ideally Where the Crime Occurred
If you have any suspicion that your information is being used by a thief, contact local law enforcement immediately. The case is more likely to be investigated where the crime took place. If necessary, file it where you live or where the suspected thief lives.
Filing a police report triggers helpful protections under both federal and state law, such as an extended fraud alert and a free security freeze, which stops access to new credit in your name.
Through IdentityTheft.gov, you will be putting together information to create an ID Theft Affidavit. Together, your ID Theft Affidavit and your police report create an “Identity Theft Report” that you will use as you contact creditors to try to restore your credit.
Note that most law enforcement will not issue a police report until your private information is actually used by an identity thief.
Victims of Tax ID Theft can now file IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, electronically via IdentityTheft.gov.
- Examine your medical records if you suspect that someone used your name to see a doctor, get medication, or file a health insurance claim. Patients who discover that they have been victims of Medical ID Theft must work to get corrected information in their files.
- Contact local law enforcement and prosecutors if you suspect that someone has used your name to avoid criminal punishment. In each county where charges were brought, inform authorities that you may be a victim of Criminal ID Theft.
- Call the NC DMV at (919) 715-7000 if you suspect that someone else has a state-issued North Carolina driver’s license in your name.
- Contact federal and state authorities if someone is using your Social Security Number for employment purposes. Alert the Social Security Administration at (800) 269-0271 and the NC Division of Employment Security at (888) 737-0259.
- Check for outstanding bad checks in your name by calling Call SCAN at (800) 262-7771.
Criminal ID Theft
Criminal identity theft can occur when a criminal–during an investigation or when arrested–gives your name and information to law enforcement instead of his or her own. Victims of criminal identity theft sometimes get arrested or convicted for crimes someone else committed.
If you are a victim of criminal identity theft, create a personalized recovery plan at IdentityTheft.gov, and follow the steps in your plan.
Dealing with Criminal Charges in Your Name
You may want to consult with a private attorney for worthless check and traffic court charges. If you face other criminal charges and you can’t convince prosecutors to drop them, or if you have to go to court to try to have a guilty verdict or plea set aside, it’s best to consult with a private attorney. If possible bring a copy of your ID Theft Report (consisting of your Affidavit and police report) when you meet with prosecutors or other court officials.
Worthless Check Charges
- If you have worthless check charges against you because of identity theft. Close the account to prevent future drafts from it, or at a minimum watch for any drafts that aren’t yours. Send a copy of your police report or your ID Theft Report to each business that received a worthless check in your name.
- Talk with the Assistant District Attorney assigned to your worthless check case. You may have to submit to a signature comparison and go to court and defend the charges.
Traffic Court: Failure to Appear
- When an identity thief gets a traffic ticket, the thief may give his or her victim’s information to police. If the thief fails to appear in court, the victim is the one who gets in trouble.
- Discuss your situation with the Assistant District Attorney assigned to traffic court in that county. Keep in mind that assistant DA’s generally cannot dismiss a charge based on a telephone call.
- Contact the charging officer. You may need to schedule a time to meet with the officer to prove that you were not the person charged.
- You may have to attend court to defend the traffic ticket. The failure to appear charge should be dismissed once you show up for court.
Traffic Court: Guilty Pleas
- If an identity thief pleads guilty while using your name, discuss your situation with the Assistant District Attorney assigned to traffic court in that county.
- Some courts require that you file a Motion to Set Aside Judgment or Motion for Appropriate Relief where the perpetrator has pleaded guilty.
- You may be required to go to court to prove that you were not the person charged.
Other Criminal Charges
- Contact the charging officer. Schedule a time to meet with the officer to prove that you were not the person charged. If you don’t live nearby, ask law enforcement in your area to take your picture and fingerprints and send them to the charging officer or Assistant District Attorney.
- The officer or the Assistant District Attorney should investigate the matter and let you know if the charges or conviction will be dismissed. They may request additional information and documents.
- If the charges aren’t dropped, you may have to go to court.
If you’re a victim of criminal identity theft whose charges were dismissed, if you were found not guilty, or if your conviction was set aside, you may apply to have those charges or convictions expunged (removed) from your record. Be aware that expungement is a lengthy process that may take many months.
Under North Carolina law, businesses and state and local government agencies must give you notice if your personal information has been compromised by a security breach. Businesses and state and local government agencies must also report security breaches to the Attorney General’s Office. Nearly 4,500 breaches that involved information about more than 10.3 million North Carolina consumers have been reported to our office since 2005.
What is a Security Breach?
A security breach happens when data or records containing personal information, such as Social Security numbers, credit card or bank account numbers or driver’s license numbers are lost, stolen or accessed improperly. This kind of information can be used by criminals to commit identity theft.
Being notified that your information was part of a security breach does not necessarily mean you’ll become a victim of identity theft. However, you are at a greater risk and need to take steps to protect yourself.
Step 1: Check affected accounts
If the security breach involved credit cards, debit cards or specific accounts, check your statements for those accounts immediately. If you see any activity that you did not authorize, contact the bank or company that services the account immediately to report the fraud. You should also request a new credit or debt card with a different number and change any PINs or passwords for the account.
Step 2: Sign Up for Free Services
Some businesses or government agencies offer security breach victims free services such as credit monitoring. While most offers are genuine, don’t provide private information without verifying that the credit monitoring service is legitimate.
Step 3: Notify the Credit Bureaus
Request a fraud alert from one of the credit bureaus. This tells banks and other creditors to take extra steps to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name. A fraud alert is free and will last 90 days, unless you request an extended seven-year fraud alert and provide a police report.
You’ll get a free copy of your credit report, which you should review carefully.
To request a fraud alert, contact one of the three nationwide credit bureaus.
- Equifax 1-800-525-6285
- Experian 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion 1-800-680-7289
Step 4: Consider a Security Freeze
A security freeze stops access to new credit in your name. Placing a security freeze prohibits credit reporting agencies from releasing any information about you to new creditors without your approval, making it difficult for an identity thief to use your information to open an account or obtain credit.
North Carolina consumers can now get free security freezes online. Identity theft victims who have filed a police report, their spouses, and consumers over the age of 62 can also get free security freezes by mail or phone. Other consumers can get security freezes by mail or phone for a fee.
Under a new North Carolina law, parents and guardians can shield their children’s credit report with a special Protected Consumer security freeze. This law can also be used to protect the credit reports of incapacitated adults.
Step 5: Monitor Your Credit
Continue to review your credit reports every few months. Your private information that was released in the security breach may not be used right away. You can request a free credit report annually.