If you’re the victim of identity theft, or think you may be at risk, you should act quickly to protect yourself from further financial damage.
You need to place a fraud alert as soon as you are aware that something could be wrong.
Placing a fraud alert is free to do, but the protection it provides could be priceless.
All you have to do is contact any one of the three major credit-reporting agencies:
• Equifax (1-800-685-1111)
• Experian (1-888-397-3742)
• TransUnion (1-888-909-8872)
Tell them that you may be a victim of identity theft and need to put a fraud alert on your credit file.
Make sure to give the reporting agency your current contact information—such as a phone number and email address—so they can reach you if necessary.
The agency you call is required to tell the others to set up alerts as well, but ask just to make sure.
A fraud alert makes it harder for criminals to open new credit in your name because a business will have to verify your identity before a new account is opened.
The fraud alert stays in effect for one year and allows you to get a free credit report from each of the three reporting agencies so you can check for irregularities.
Use these reports to look for any unexpected credit applications in your name, or problems with bills, payments, or personal information. Quickly report any problem you might find so action can be taken.
After one year you will have the option to renew the fraud alert.
You can also place an extended fraud alert that lasts for 7 years, but you’ll need to file an official identity theft report at IdentityTheft.gov or with your local police.
It’s important to move to protect yourself quickly.
Remember, placing a fraud alert is easy, fast, and free.