Identity theft is always a real concern.
The following information will help guide you on how to monitor your credit, freeze your credit and how to place a fraud alert on your credit file in the event you are a victim of identity theft.
Credit Monitoring Options
Request Credit Reports
By law, you can obtain a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company.
- Visit annualcreditreport.com to view a copy of your credit report from one or all of the three major agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).
- You can also call toll-free (877) FACT-ACT (877-322-8228) to request your free annual credit reports from each of the agencies.
- Consider staggering the requests for a free credit report from each agency throughout the 12-month period.
- For more information about free credit reports, visit the Federal Trade Commission Free Credit Report website.
Daily Monitoring Services
For a fee, you can purchase services that offer daily monitoring of all three credit bureau reports, as well as checking and savings account application alerts. Potential service providers include:
- AmericanExpress CreditSecure
- Experian ProtectMyID
- Check with your credit card company as to whether it offers any form of free credit monitoring that would advise you of activity on your credit file.
Credit Freeze/Fraud Alert Options
Credit or Security Freeze
A credit or security freeze is a proactive approach to help protect against identity theft. You can request a freeze of your credit report at each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion). With a credit freeze in place, no company (other than your existing creditors or certain government agencies) can look at your credit report and creditors will not be able to open new accounts. Freezing your credit is a strong protection against someone opening an account in your name. Think of it as a padlock on your credit.
If and when you want to open a new account or apply for a new credit, you will have to unfreeze the report at the applicable bureau(s). You will be provided with a password if you need to unfreeze your credit. It’s important to keep this password in a safe place.
In placing a credit freeze, avoid signing up for offerings like “Credit Lock” or “TrueIdentity.” These are paid products. Placing the credit freeze and unfreezing it are now free by law in all states.
How do I place a freeze on my credit reports?
Contact each of the following nationwide credit reporting companies to freeze at each of the major agencies:
- EQUIFAX (https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services) Phone: 800-349-9960
- EXPERIAN (https://www.experian.com/help) Phone: 888 397 3742
- TRANSUNION (https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze) Phone: 888-909-8872
There is a fourth, less utilized credit agency, called Innovis. While this agency doesn’t have as extensive a credit history as the main three, it remains a collector of consumer credit data; thus, it is included as a fourth agency at which to consider freezing your credit. Industry experts have not come to a consensus on whether it is necessary to also freeze at this fourth, smaller agency, so it is presented as optional.
- INNOVIS (https://innovis.com/personal/securityFreeze) Phone: 800-540-2505
It is a good idea to consider placing a credit freeze for your minor children. To do so, contact each of the following nationwide credit reporting companies and mail the required documents.
- EQUIFAX Minor Freeze Request Form (https://assets.equifax.com/assets/personal/Minor_Freeze_Request_Form.pdf)
- EXPERIAN Minor Freeze Request Form (https://www.experian.com/help/minor-request.html)
- TRANSUNION Minor Freeze Request Form (https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/credit-freeze-faq)
For additional information, visit the following resources:
- Federal Trade Commission Credit Freeze FAQ link
- Federal Trade Commission Free Credit Freezes Are Here
- How to Freeze Your Credit with Experian, Equifax and TransUnion
- How to Freeze your Child’s Credit
For additional security, consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert notifies a third party such as potential creditor or lender to take steps to verify your identity before granting credit in your name. Note that a fraud alert, unlike a credit freeze, does not block access to your credit report.
A fraud alert is good for a period of one year. If you place a fraud alert at one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion), it will notify the other two of your request. If you are a victim of identity theft, you are entitled to an extended fraud alert, which is a fraud alert lasting seven years.
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