How to Prevent Credit Fraud and Identity Theft
The ultimate key to prevent credit theft and identity fraud is to simply pay attention to where and how you are housing your personal information. Make sure you review your statements monthly and dispute any incorrect or suspicious charges immediately. You should also request and review your credit report annually. Click here to request your free copy of your credit report.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR INFORMATION HAS BEEN COMPROMISED
As soon as you realize your information has been compromised, you need to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to place a fraud alert with one of the credit reporting agencies. Once you notify one, they are required to notify the others.
- Equifax (800) 685-1111
- Experian (888) 397-3742
- TransUnion (888) 909-8872
Initial Fraud Alert
You can place an initial fraud alert on your credit report if you believe you are about to become a victim of credit fraud or identity theft. Once an initial fraud alert is placed on your report, it will remain on your report for 90 days. After 90 days, the credit bureaus will automatically remove it from your reports. Once it has been removed, you can call and place another 90-day initial fraud alert.
When you place an initial fraud alert on your credit report, you can request an additional free copy of your report that does not count against your free annual report from each credit bureau.
Extended Fraud Alert
You can place an extended fraud alert on your credit report after your identity has been stolen and you have filed an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). An extended fraud alert is good for seven years and requires creditors to contact you in person or through another contact method that you choose to verify you are the person making the credit request.
When you place an extended fraud alert on your credit report, you can request two free copies of your report from each credit bureau over a 12-month period.
A credit freeze prevents creditors from accessing your credit file, blocks credit thieves from opening any new accounts in your name, and can only be “thawed” by you. Freezing your credit has no impact on your existing lines of credit. You can continue to use your credit accounts during a freeze.
You can freeze and unfreeze your credit report as often as you want, but keep in mind that some bureaus charge to freeze and unfreeze. Unlike fraud alerts, when you place a credit freeze through one credit bureau, they will not notify the other agencies about the freeze. You will have to contact each agency separately if you want to place a credit freeze with all three credit bureaus.
Active Duty Alerts for Service Members
You can place an active duty alert on your credit report to protect your information while you are on active duty. An active duty alert is good for 12 months.
An active duty alert requires creditors to verify additional information to ensure you are the person making the credit request. When you place an active duty alert on your report, your name will also be removed for two years from credit bureau marketing lists for credit offers and insurance.
After you have placed a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit report, it’s time to implement a recovery plan to get your finances and credit back on track. Click here to get started.