Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
Authored By: Florida Justice Technology Center
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 to:
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 account. This could be from stealing your checkbook or electronically obtaining access to your checking account. Use of an ATM card or credit card that you did not approve is also identity theft.
In some cases, identity theft occurs within families to children, seniors, and domestic violence survivors, making reporting and recovery especially difficult.
How Might it Impact Me?
Even if you are able to resolve a financial identity theft issue with your bank, this use of your name and credit history can result in you getting collection letters for things you did not purchase.
It can also result in unfavorable entries on your credit report, causing you problems in getting credit or paying a higher interest rate.
Becoming the victim of an identity theft can be a complicated and frustrating time in your life.
What Can I Do?
To use the letters, you must first report the crime of identity theft to the police. You do not need to know the name of the person who used your identity. You show the police the debt collection letters or other confirmation that you are the victim of this crime.
The three forms below use the FTC-created material.
You can also visit the National Identity Theft Victims Assistance Network to learn more.
Before You Begin:
The information provided and the interactive interviews will give you legal information, not legal advice.
These forms are not for commercial use and charging for use in any way is prohibited.
If you do not already have it, you will need to download free Adobe Flash Player to view the interactive interviews.
If you do not have Microsoft Word, you will need to download free Microsoft Word Viewer to print the forms.
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.
Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, these materials including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided.
For more information on the project or regarding identity theft, you can go to identitytheftnetwork.org.
Forms for You to Fill In
Letter to Creditor
To use the interactive interview for responding to someone collecting a bill that is in your name, but a bill you did not authorize, you will need a copy of the bill in hand when you start the interview.
You will also need to provide a copy of your proof of your identity.
Click below to use the interactive interview for a Letter to a Creditor, directly collecting their own bill. 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.
Letter to Debt Collector
To use the interactive interview for responding to a company or law firm that is a Debt Collector, or collecting a bill that is in your name but you did not authorize, you will need a copy of their letter in hand when you start the interview.
You will also need to provide a copy of your police report and proof of your identity, by copying these and putting them in the letter. Click below to use the interactive interview for a Letter to Debt Collector.
Letter to Credit Bureau
To use the interactive interview to create a letter to a Credit Bureau, seeking investigation and removal from your credit report of items that are the result of identity theft, you will need a copy of your credit report in hand when you start the interview.
You can obtain a free copy of your credit report from each credit bureau here (https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp). You do not have to pay for a copy of your credit report. One credit report from each company is available to you free each year.
You will mail the 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.
Click below to use the interactive interview for a Letter to a Credit Bureau.
Interactive Forms: Frequently Asked Questions
- Who Can Use This Program?
This program is designed for identity theft crime victims or advocates assisting them, who are representing themselves.
- Why can’t I see the interview? I Keep Getting an Error Message: “There’s a problem. Could not find question. Unable to proceed.”
If Adobe Flash Player is not installed on your computer, you will get an error message at the beginning of your interview. Download it here: Adobe Flash Player. Scroll down and click “Install Now”. You do not need the free McAfee Security Scan Plus and should uncheck that box if you don't want to install it. You may need to restart your computer after installation.
- Do I Need a Specific Browser to Access the Interactive Forms?
Make sure to use an updated, Flash-enabled browser such as Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Mozilla. You may want to check for the latest version of the browser by visiting their website.
- What Should I Expect?
You will answer questions in an interview format and your answers will be used to fill in a letter that you can mail. Once you click the link to the form you need, you will be taken to our partnering site, LawHelp Interactive, to complete the interview for the interactive forms. At the end of the interview, you will “submit” your answers, wait for your documents to be assembled, and then download your documents for printing.
- How Much Does It Cost?
There is no cost for using this program.
- What Should I Know About Representing Myself?
The materials and assistance you receive from the interactive forms project are not a substitute for legal advice. The laws are complex. Following instructions and using the forms provided to you will not guarantee a favorable result. It is always advisable to talk to a lawyer about your problem before proceeding on your own if possible. You can review www.lawhelp.org for potential legal assistance.
- How do I return to an interview that I didn't complete the first time?
Step one: Log in. If you didn’t register previously and save your answers, then this option is not available. You will have to complete the interview again.
Step two: Pick your saved answers. You will return to the interview, but your answers will be in the blanks, so you can click through them quickly, until you reach the unanswered questions. You can change your answers at this point. However, complete the options as you did the first time. (If the interview asks a yes or no question, answer it the same this time through.) If you are using a new template, you can select saved answers and the relevant information will be transferred from your prior use. You will know what was transferred, because it will be in the boxes of the interview. You will need to answer any questions that aren’t answered already.
- How do I find the document I created with this online interview?
If you get to this point, seeing this screen, your documents have been prepared.
“Save your answers” just saves the answers, not the document. You can use those answers again, but have to go through the interview again. You just don’t have to re-enter the information. To actually see the document, you have to click the “Get Your Document” button. This isthenext screen and you press the Get Document button again. The file will open a box allowing you to select where you want to save the document. Save the document on your computer in a place of your choosing. You can then find where you saved the document, open it in Word, review, edit, and print it.