Should You File a Police Report For Identity Theft?
When Jaquasia Jones applied for a new job, she never thought it would kick off a decade-long battle against identity theft. But that’s exactly what happened after a hiring manager used her Social Security number (SSN) and other personal information to open new accounts and rack up over $50,000 of debt in her name [*].
While it’s often easier to measure the financial impact of identity theft, it’s much harder to track the emotional damage. Victims of identity theft feel overwhelmed, violated, and exhausted — with no idea where or who to turn to for help.
The sooner you file a police report for identity theft, the better chance you have of preventing further damage to your financial and personal reputation.
In this guide, we’ll explain when you should file a police report for identity theft, how to do it, and the other essential steps to take if you’re a victim.
When Do Local Police Handle Identity Theft Cases?
Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information — such as your name, address, banking details, SSN, credit card number, etc. — without your permission, to perform criminal or fraudulent activities.
Scammers can open new accounts in your name, commit loan fraud, steal medical benefits (i.e., medical identity theft), access your retirement accounts, and inflict severe financial damage. Identity thieves can hurt your credit score and ruin an otherwise reputable credit history.
Unfortunately, although there are numerous types of identity theft, there are only specific situations that your local police department will handle.
Here’s when you can file a police report for identity theft:
- You know the person who committed the crime. If you know that a roommate, family member, friend, etc. had access to your information right before something showed up on your credit report or accounts, the police may investigate that person.
- You have information that could aid a police investigation into the theft. For example, if someone used your name and address and then filed for a change of address in your area, this may pinpoint a potential suspect.
- Your identity was used during a police interaction or crime. If a person stole your identity and used your name and address during a traffic stop or an arrest (i.e. criminal identity theft), you may have police records in your name even though you didn’t commit the crime. Filing a police report protects you from any unwarranted penalties.
- Your financial institutions require a police report for identity theft. Some banking institutions, credit unions, and debt collectors will need to keep an official police report on file for their records as they resolve disputes.
Even if you can file a police report, it doesn't usually mean that your local law enforcement will aggressively pursue the culprit.
In many cases, identity theft is a jurisdictional nightmare involving scammers from different states or even countries. Your local police won't be able to investigate unless you can prove who the fraudster is and that they have jurisdiction to charge them.
So why file a police report in the first place?
The main reason to file a police report for identity theft is that it is a declaration of your innocence and serves as a sworn statement that you shouldn’t be held responsible for any crimes the thief committed using your name.
Also, a police report can help you dispute fraudulent charges and prove your innocence if scammers used your identity during a crime.
In many cases, the process of recovering from identity theft is more about cleaning up the mess rather than tracking down the person who scammed you.
Your First Step: File an ID Theft Report With the FTC
In most cases, your local police will want to see that you’ve first filed an official identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
As a federal law enforcement agency, the FTC supersedes your local police department.
If you’re a victim of identity theft, you should first head to www.IdentityTheft.gov and start the process of filing an identity theft report online.
Here’s what to do:
- Go to IdentityTheft.gov and use the online tool to choose the prompt that best describes your situation.
- Continue to click the appropriate responses. The online wizard will automatically fill out your Identity Theft Affidavit and create a personalized recovery plan. For example, you can download forms and dispute letters to send to credit bureaus and your other financial institutions to help clear your name. You may also need to report the identity fraud to another government department, such as your local attorney general’s office.
- Once you complete your id theft affidavit, print out the report and keep a copy for your records. You’ll need this in order to report the crime to your credit card companies and other financial institutions. If you choose to file a police report, they’ll ask you for a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report.
- When you’re done, your FTC report becomes an official statement about the crime that other law enforcement agencies can access during their own investigations.
Can You Call the FTC to Report Identity Theft?
While the FTC encourages identity theft victims to file an online report, you can also file a report over the telephone via the FTC's identity theft hotline at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
This is a toll-free number, so even if your cell phone is lost or stolen, you can call from a landline with no issues.
How To File a Police Report for Identity Theft in 5 Steps
- Locate (or fill out) your FTC Identity Theft Report
- Bring personally identifying documents to verify your identity
- Collect specific evidence of identity theft
- Stay calm but persistent during the interview
- Document everything and set a time to follow up
It’s not a difficult process to file a police report for identity theft. Here’s what to do:
1. Locate (or fill out) your FTC Identity Theft Report
Your local police department will ask for your FTC report. Make sure you bring it with you to the police station. If you haven’t filled it out, you can do so in a few minutes online at IdentityTheft.gov.
2. Bring personally identifying documents to verify your identity
The police will need to see ID that proves that you are who you claim to be. This can include:
- Your government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, Social Security card, or passport.
- Proof of address, such as your name and address on mortgage paperwork, a rental agreement, utility bills, paystubs, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) forms, etc.
3. Collect specific evidence of identity theft
Print out copies or bring your paper credit card statements, bank account statements, IRS notices, collection letters, data breach notifications, etc. Make sure these are all dated and clearly show the fraud that you’re filling a report about.
If you were scammed online, you might also want to bring printouts of any interaction with the scammer — such as text messages, social media DMs, or emails.
4. Stay calm but persistent during the interview
In some cases, police may try to hurry you through your statement or seem disinterested in what you’re saying. This is most likely because they know that identity theft cases are difficult to prosecute or are busy with other cases.
However, it’s important that you stay calm and don’t get overwhelmed or frustrated. Be specific about what happened, show your evidence, and ask for documentation of your police report and file.
5. Document everything and set a time to follow up
Recovering from identity theft involves a lot of paperwork. Keep detailed notes with dates and names of the police officers you spoke with. Keep all of this together in a file related to your identity theft.
Ask them what they’ll do next and when an appropriate time would be to follow up.
Pro tip: Make sure you hold onto your police report as lenders and companies may request your report number when disputing fraudulent charges or accounts.
What Happens After You File a Police Report for Identity Theft?
After you submit your police report, an officer will follow up on the information you provided and see if they can catch the criminal. This can be a long process as identity theft cases are often lower priority or may have complicated jurisdictional issues.
For example, you may have to file a police report with both your local law enforcement and the police department in the town or county where the scammer used your identity.
Tracking and following up on all of these different reports can be extremely time-consuming, which is why many people seek on the help of an award-winning identity theft protection service.
What Should You Do If You Can’t File a Report With The Police?
As mentioned, most ID theft cases don’t actually require you to file an identity theft report with your local police department. Plus, once you file with the FTC, local law enforcement has access to the report (and they’re going to ask for it, anyway).
But, if your financial institutions require a police report and your local police department denies your request, you can always contact your state attorney general’s office. Each state has a different process, and your attorney general's office or website will provide details about how to proceed.
However, this is still only the beginning of your recovery journey.
There are important actions you can take that will help secure your identity and minimize the damage that a thief or scammer can do:
Check your insurance coverage
If you have identity theft insurance, your provider should be your first call after you realize your identity was stolen.
Every Aura plan includes access to a U.S.-based team of White Glove Fraud Resolution specialists who can help you navigate the steps of recovering from fraud. Aura’s victim assistance specialists will create a personalized recovery plan and can even facilitate three-way calls between you and financial institutions or government agencies.
If you’re stressed and anxious about dealing with identity theft, you don’t have to go through it alone. Aura’s White Glove Fraud Resolution service eliminates the stress of recovering your identity and assets if you’re a victim of identity theft or any of the different types of financial fraud.
Look for further signs of identity theft
Identity theft is rarely a single crime. If fraudsters have access to your personal information, they can use it for an array of scams that could take weeks or even months to uncover. Even worse, 50% of all identity theft victims are repeat victims [*].
As soon as you start to suspect that your identity has been stolen, start looking for more warning signs of identity theft, such as:
- Missing funds from your bank account, or unauthorized withdrawals.
- Unauthorized charges on your credit or debit card.
- Calls from debt collectors regarding debt that’s not yours.
- You're suddenly locked out of your email or social media accounts because someone hacked your accounts and changed your passwords.
- Your data was exposed in a new data breach or is available on the Dark Web.
- Someone applied for a loan or opened a new credit card account in your name.
- Someone stole your income tax refund or applied for unemployment benefits in your name.
- You received a medical bill from a doctor you never visited or your health insurance provider informs you that you’ve maxed out your benefit limit (when you know you have not).
Reach out to any impacted company or agency
Once you know the full extent of the identity theft, you’ll need to start contacting impacted companies and agencies. For example, if a scammer took out a loan in your name, you’ll need to contact the impacted financial institution, share your FTC file, and dispute the transaction.
The same goes for government agencies. For example, if your driver's license was stolen, you should contact your state's Department of Motor Vehicles.
Report identity theft to credit bureaus and freeze your credit
Your next step will be to mitigate the damage that scammers can continue to do. A credit freeze stops anyone from accessing your credit file. This means that fraudsters won’t be able to open new accounts or take out loans in your name.
To freeze your credit, you’ll need to contact each of the three major credit bureaus individually —Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. They’ll ask you to prove your identity and then give you a credit PIN you can use to freeze and unfreeze your credit file with them.
Here’s how to contact each of the credit bureaus to request a credit freeze:
As a victim of identity theft, you also have the right to request a free copy of your credit report (to look for inaccurate information) as well as blocking fraudulent information on your credit report that could damage your credit score.
Why not use a fraud alert?
All victims of identity theft can request a 90-day or 1-year fraud alert. A fraud alert — also known as a security freeze — warns lenders that your identity has been stolen and encourages them to validate any new accounts or loans before extending credit. While a fraud alert is easier to implement (you only need to contact one of the major credit reporting agencies — not all three), it is less secure as not all lenders will do an extensive check before extending credit.
Pro tip: Save time and hassle by allowing Aura to monitor and alert you to any new inquiries to your credit file across all 3 major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion).
Contact your bank, credit union, and credit card issuer's fraud department
If any fraudulent accounts were opened in your name, or any fraudulent charges appear on your bank statements or credit card statements, you should dispute these immediately. It's a good idea to have a copy of your ID theft affidavit, and a copy of the police report handy to prove that you are a victim of fraud.
Cancel any compromised accounts and dispute transactions
If any of your financial information has been compromised, you should request new account numbers, card numbers, and PIN numbers. While you may be able to secure your current accounts, it’s always a better idea to close compromised accounts and cards and request new ones.
Immediately change the usernames and passwords to your online accounts
Many scammers are more interested in your online accounts — email, social media, banking, etc. — than even your SSN. These accounts can be used to run further scams or drain your finances.
If you’ve been the victim of any type of identity theft, you should immediately update your online passwords and enable additional security measures, such as two-factor authentication (2FA).
Every Aura plan includes a secure password manager that can store your login credentials and warn you if your passwords are too weak or were leaked in a recent data breach.
Get in the habit of regularly checking your credit reports
Visit AnnualCreditReport.com and request a free credit report from the major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You can use this to look for further signs of fraud.
To make things easier on yourself, let Aura monitor your credit for you. Aura has direct connections to all of the three major credit bureaus and can alert you to signs of fraud up to 4x faster than competitors.
The Bottom Line: Prevention Is Always The Best Plan
Recovering from identity theft can take weeks, months, or even years. For many victims, it’s an ongoing battle. While filing a police report for identity theft can help, much of your recovery will come down to the work you put in yourself.
Don’t get stuck dealing with identity theft by yourself. If you’re a victim, consider signing up for Aura’s award-winning identity theft protection service. With Aura, you get personal and financial account monitoring, device and network protection, parental controls, and a $1 Million Identity Theft Insurance policy that covers eligible losses due to identity fraud.