Filing a complaint with the FTC is important for several reasons. First, the information that you enter into the ID Theft Complaint Form can be used as part of an Identity Theft Report, which is an important tool in recovering from identity theft. Read on to find out more about your rights as a victim of identity theft.
Second, when you file an ID Theft Complaint with the FTC, you can help law enforcers catch identity thieves. Your complaint is entered into the FTC’s Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse, which law enforcement officers can search as part of their criminal investigations. (The FTC, however, does not bring criminal cases.) Law enforcement officers who are members of the Clearinghouse may contact you if your case becomes part of their investigation. But it’s also a good idea to stay in touch with your local police department about their investigation, or about any recent developments in your case.
The ID Theft Complaint Form is used by consumers online to file a complaint with the FTC. The FTC makes the ID Theft Complaints we receive from victims available to other federal, state and local law enforcement officials nationwide. The printed ID Theft Complaint can be used in conjunction with a police report to create an Identity Theft Report that will help you recover more quickly.
The Identity Theft Report is a detailed police report that gives enough information about the crime for the credit reporting companies and the businesses involved to verify that you’re a victim of ID theft. When you file your Identity Theft Report with the credit reporting companies or creditors, you get several important legal protections that will help you recover from ID theft. However, the credit reporting companies and businesses can decline your Identity Theft Report if it does not contain enough detail.
The ID Theft Affidavit is a less detailed version of an Identity Theft Report. If you request copies of applications or transaction documents related to your ID theft from companies that opened fraudulent accounts for the thief, they may require you to give them an ID Theft Affidavit and a police report before they give the records to you. And, if you don’t want to file a police report, you can use an ID Theft Affidavit instead of an Identity Theft Report to request that companies remove your responsibility for debts where an identity thief opened a new account in your name. However, an ID Theft Affidavit doesn’t give you as many legal rights as you get with an Identity Theft Report.
If you know that your personal information has been misused, you should file a complaint with the FTC, and with local law enforcement, right away. The faster you can act, the less chance the ID thief has to do more damage to your credit. Follow these steps if you’ve been the victim of identity theft.
If your personal information has been lost or otherwise compromised, you may want to file a complaint even if your information has not yet been misused. Reporting the incident now may help if your information is misused in the future and you need to prove the date or circumstances of the compromise. Filing a complaint when your information has been released in a data breach also can assist the FTC in finding out about such breaches. Make sure to visit “If Your Information Has Been Compromised But Not Yet Misused” for information on other steps you should take.
You can file a complaint with the FTC using the online ID Theft Complaint Form; you can call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261; or you can write to the Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. A printed version of your complaint is available only if you file your complaint online.
Please do not send the FTC your printed ID Theft Complaint Form, ID Theft Affidavit, police report, credit reports, financial information, or any other documents relating to your case. The FTC does not keep these materials on file or forward them to law enforcement agencies. If a law enforcement agency decides to open an investigation on your case, they will contact you directly and let you know what documents they need.
When you fill out the FTC’s ID Theft Complaint Form, the FTC puts the information you provide into an electronic database called the Identity Theft Clearinghouse. The information you submit is shared with FTC attorneys and investigators. It also may be shared with employees of federal, state, or local law enforcement or regulatory authorities. The FTC also may share your information with private entities where it believes that sharing information might help resolve identity theft-related problems. There is a chance that you may be contacted by the FTC or other agencies to which your complaint has been referred. In some limited circumstances, including requests from Congress, the FTC may be required by law to disclose information you submit.
You have the option to submit your information anonymously. However, if you don’t provide your name and contact information, law enforcement agencies and other organizations will not be able to contact you for more information to help in identity theft investigations and prosecutions. Also, importantly, if you don’t give your name and contact information, you may have difficulty getting an Identity Theft Report.
Records in the Identity Theft Clearinghouse are covered under the Privacy Act of 1974. In general, the Privacy Act prohibits unauthorized disclosures of the records it protects. It also gives individuals the right to review records about themselves.
You should try to review at least one of your credit reports before filling out your complaint. You can get a free credit report from each credit reporting company when you place a fraud alert. You will get a letter offering you a free copy after you place the alert. Your credit report can provide information about the accounts that resulted from your identity theft, such as the names of companies where accounts were opened, what types they were, the account numbers, and dollar amounts charged. Your credit report may contain clues about the identity and location of the thief. Besides your credit report, you might have received other information—such as collection notices on accounts you didn’t open or have not used—that are good sources of information. Use whatever information you may have from all of this documentation when you fill out your Complaint, and take copies of this documentation with you when you go to file your police report.