Dealing with Identity Fraud

A lock symbol on a shield on a smartphone screen with green computer code around it reminiscent of the matrix.

Consider This:  American consumers have become increasingly aware that their personal information needs protecting. That concern isn’t unfounded. Javelin also found that 6.6 percent of U.S. consumers became victims of identity fraud in 2017—an increase of almost one million victims over 2016.

Despite rising concerns, research also shows that many consumers aren’t doing enough to properly protect their personal information. According to a poll from, 92 percent of American adults have taken at least one big risk with their data security in the past year.

Part of the problem could be the sheer amount of data consumers now need to protect across multiple platforms. For example, the Javelin study found that cards with EMV chips, designed to thwart data thieves, have only driven these thieves online. The study found that “Card Not Present Fraud” perpetrated against online shoppers, is now 81 percent more likely than the point-of-sale fraud that would be used against those shopping in-store. suggests that even the most careful U.S. consumers are likely to find their personal information has been compromised at some point. If you ever become the victim of identity fraud, here are tips on how to deal with it:

Notify affected creditors or financial institutions.

This can save you money. In the case of a compromised credit card, the Fair Credit Billing Act specifies your maximum liability for unauthorized charges is $50. Debit and ATM cards are protected under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, which specifies that victims are not on the hook for any fraudulent activity that appears on a card after they’ve already reported it stolen. If fraudulent charges appear on the card before the victim can report it as stolen, consumers have a two-business-day window in which to report the unauthorized charges and get a $50 liability limit. After that, there is a $500 liability limit for up to 60 days after the statement reflecting the fraud is issued.

File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Visit to let the government know your identity has been compromised. It’s also important to fill out the FTC’s ID theft complaint and affidavit form, which, combined with a police report, will help with disputing fraudulent accounts. The FTC will also provide you with a personalized recovery plan.

Put a fraud alert on your credit report.

After detecting fraud, contact any one of the three credit reporting agencies to request a fraud alert. The alert will show creditors that activity on your compromised account does not reflect your borrowing habits. The alert will last for 90 days. You may also place an extended fraud alert—one that lasts seven years—on your credit report after filing a police report or an ID theft complaint form from the Federal Trade Commission.

Consider placing a credit freeze on your reports.

A credit freeze prevents the credit reporting agencies from releasing your credit report to new creditors. This is usually free if you can prove you’re an ID theft victim.