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After Identity Theft


    What is Identity Theft?

    Identity theft is the largest consumer complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) annually.  If you have been the victim of identity theft, it could mean someone has used your name and other information to:

    • make purchases;
    • get credit cards;
    • rent an apartment; or
    • obtain utilities without your permission.

    In some cases, thieves may have received medical services in your name, re-routed your tax refund, or even impersonated you during contact with law enforcement.

    Identity theft may also include someone using checks on your bank account. This could be from stealing your checkbook or electronically obtaining access to your checking account. The unauthorized use of an ATM card or credit card is also identity theft. 

    In some cases, identity theft occurs within families to children, seniors, and domestic violence survivors. This makes reporting and recovery especially difficult.

    How Might it Impact Me?

    Even if you are able to resolve an identity theft issue with your bank, this use of your name and credit history can lead to you getting collection letters for things you did not buy. 

    It can also cause negative entries on your credit report.  This could cause you problems in getting credit or paying higher interest rates.

    What Can I Do?

    The FTC offers information on identify theft. It also created the Taking Charge booklet that you can use to notify a debt collector or credit bureau that someone has stolen your identity. There is a letter you can send to a creditor, one you can send to a debt collector, and one you can send to a credit bureau, telling them that you are a victim of identity theft. 

    To use the letters, you must first report the identity theft to the police.  You do not need to know the name of the person who used your identity. You will need to show the police the debt collection letters or other confirmation that you are the victim of this crime. 

    The three forms in this toolkit use the FTC-created material.

    You can also visit the National Identity Theft Victims Assistance Network to learn more.

    Even if you were already the victim of identity theft, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself. For example, you can work on staying safer while you are online. To learn more about how to stay safer online, visit the Security Planner guide. The guide will ask you a few questions and then give you easy-to-use tips on how you can stay safer online.  

    Before You Begin:

    • This material was produced in part by the Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center, Inc. under award #2010-VF-GX-K030, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
    • For more information on the project or regarding identity theft, you can go to


    Letter to Creditor: You can use the Do-It-Yourself Letter to a Creditor after ID Theft to write a letter to a creditor collecting a bill that is in your name, but that you did not authorize. This might be a credit card statement you received that contains charges you didn’t make or authorize.  It can be any situation where your credit or identity was used without your permission.

    A creditor is a person or agency that is directly collecting their own bill, not using a debt collector.  
    You will need a copy of the bill. You will also need to provide a copy of your proof of your identity when you send the letter.

    Letter to Debt Collector: You can use the Do-It-Yourself Letter to Debt Collector after ID Theft to write a letter to a company or law firm that is a debt collector, collecting a bill that is in your name but that you did not authorize. You will need a copy of their letter.

    When you send the letter, you will also need to send a copy of your police report and proof of your identity.  

    Letter to Credit Bureau: You can use the Do-It-Yourself Letter to a Credit Bureau after ID Theft to create a letter to a credit bureau if you want to ask for an identity theft investigation. You can also ask it to remove items from your credit report that are the result of identity theft.

    You will need a copy of your credit report. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each credit bureau. You can get one free credit report from each bureau every year. 

    Mail the completed letter and attachment, a copy of your credit report with the incorrect items circled, a copy of the police report you made of the identity theft, and proof of your identity with the letter.