Reporting fraud, from embezzlement to identity theft, is important for two reasons: it can help you as a victim recover personal losses, and it can prevent other people from falling victim to the same scheme. Sometimes, whether because of the high volume of fraud reports or because your local police force is ill-equipped to deal with such cases, filing a fraud report with local authorities can be difficult. Still, you should always report a crime, including fraud, to the local police, as a police report will help protect you in the future. If you're the victim of a fraud, close your affected bank accounts and credit cards, file a report with the FTC, place an alert on your credit report and begin the process of filing a police report with your local law enforcement agency.
If you've experienced fraud, your first step is to protect your finances by putting a fraud alert on your credit report and freezing or closing your bank accounts and credit cards. You can freeze your account by contacting your bank. To place a fraud alert on your credit report, contact one of the three credit reporting companies – Experian, TransUnion or Equifax. After you've secured your accounts and credit, report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission, then file a police report.
First Report to the FTC
The first step after you lock down your accounts and credit is to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online at ftc.gov. Fill out the FTC ID Theft Complaint form, which will grant you some protection against fraudulent information on your accounts and credit report. The FTC will provide you with guidance as to how you can stem the negative effects of the fraud and what steps you should take next. The FTC recommends filing a police report.
Filing a Police Report for Fraud
After reporting the matter to the FTC, call your local police and tell them you'd like to file a fraud report. Ask them if it's possible to do so in person at the station. If not, ask how you can file by phone or online and take notes on their instructions. If you go into the station to file, bring a copy of your FTC report and any supporting documentation, such as your bank statements or correspondence you may have received from the thief or companies the thief has dealt with. Fill out the forms given to you by the police and ask them to attach the copy of the FTC report to your police report.
Ask for a copy of your police report. Hold on to your report as proof of fraudulent activity on your accounts and credit report. If the police cannot offer you a copy of the police report, as is the case in some jurisdictions, have the officer sign your FTC complaint form and list the police report number in the "Law Enforcement Report" portion of the complaint form.
If your local police are unwilling to take a fraud report, try filling out a Miscellaneous Incident report. Then contact your state's attorney general to see if your state requires local police to take fraud reports. Your state's attorney general may also have a special task force to combat fraud, and his office may be able to refer you to another jurisdiction, such as the state police, to file your report.
For fraud conducted via the internet, including scams delivered by spam and phishing websites, and your local police may not be able to take your report if you don't know where the scam occurred. For example, if someone steals your identity and opens up a credit card in another state, you'd have to contact the police in that state; on the other hand, if everything was done online and you don't know where the scammer is located, police jurisdiction might be harder to determine. Contacting the FTC is the first step in this situation.
What to Do Next
Keep copies of all reports you file, both with the police and with the FTC, as they may be needed again to combat new or reappearing fraudulent charges. You may want to provide copies to the credit reporting bureaus as part of your fraud alert file.