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Victims of Identity Theft: What's Next?  The Federal Trade Commission

Someone who has been victimized by identity theft is required to jump through several hoops to reclaim their life.  These steps include filing reports with the banks and financial institutions who are related to the compromised accounts along with local law enforcement agencies.  One of the most important steps that needs to be taken is filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. 

Why File a Complaint with the FTC?   

Filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission is important for numerous reasons.  First and foremost, the details entered on the Identity Theft Complaint Form acts as a very essential tool in recovering from this heinous crime.  Secondly, complaints filed with the FTC help law enforcement catch thieves before they are able to commit more crimes.  Police officers are able to access information stored into the Federal Trade Commission's database and use it as a part of criminal investigations. 

When Should You File a Complaint?

If you are certain that your personal information has been used or accounts have been compromised, a complaint should be filed with the FTC right away.  The faster you take action, the less likely it is for an identity thief to inflict damage to your credit and personal assets.  It would be a good idea to make a complaint if your information has been lost or compromised, but not yet misused.  Reporting this incident may aid in the future if fraudulent acts happen to occur, enabling you to prove dates and circumstances regarding the problem. 

How to File a Complaint

Complaints of this crime can being filed with the FTC directly online: www.ftc.gov  You can also refer to the FTC's toll free Identity Theft Hotline: (877) ID-THEFT (438-4338).  Complaints may also be submitted in writing by sending mail to the Federal Trade Commission:

Identity Theft Clearinghouse

Federal Trade Commission

600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20580

 

Keep in mind that printed versions of your complaint are only available if it was filed online.  You also shouldn't send printed Identity Theft Complaint Forms, police reports, and other documents relative to the case to the FTC.  The Federal Trade Commission will not keep these documents on file nor forward them to law enforcement agencies.  If members of law enforcement choose to open an investigation regarding your case, they will usually make direct contact and inform you of what documentation is required.     

What to do Before Filing a Complaint

Before taking action and filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, it is a good idea to inquire within at least one of the three major credit bureaus to review your report.  Free reports can be attained from each bureau when placing a fraud alert.  After placing the alert, you will receive a letter stating that you are eligible for at least one free copy.  By reviewing the report you may be able to learn which accounts were compromised by identity thieves and possibly the dollar amounts charged to you.  A credit report may also contain clues regarding the location and identity of the criminal. 

Aside from a credit report, there may be other information that indicate the crime of identity theft.  This may include notices from collection agencies or documents concerning accounts you didn't open or haven't used.  These are all solid sources of information that will help you file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or a report with your local police department. 

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