Repairing identity theft

It’s a fact that scam artists prey on older adults. Scammers steal identifying information and use it to obtain cash, make purchases, or open new credit card accounts.

If your relative’s identity has been stolen, take action quickly. But be methodical! Keep track of every report you make. Log every call. Send any documents by certified mail. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends the following steps:

Things to do right away:

Call the companies where the fraud occurred.

  • Talk to the fraud department. Explain there is an identity theft situation.
  • Ask them to close or freeze the accounts to avoid new charges. (They may require an Identity Theft Report from the FTC. See below.)
  • Identify the charges that are fraudulent. Ask that they be removed.
  • Change logins, passwords, and PINS.

Place a free, one-year fraud alert by contacting one of the three credit bureaus. That company must tell the other two.

File a report with the FTC. Go to or call 1-877-438-4338. They will give you an official Identity Theft Report and recovery plan for free. You may need the report to get further action on the accounts.

Next, clean up your loved one’s credit

Contact each of the credit bureaus listed above.

  • Ask to have fraudulent information removed. For example, names of accounts opened, unpaid bills. They are required to comply with your request to block this information if you have an FTC Identity Fraud Report.
  • Consider placing an extended fraud alert or credit freeze. This way, no new accounts may be opened without your loved one’s consent.

Continue to monitor service records and bills so you can quickly challenge suspicious activity.