If a fraudster steals your identity, you may find yourself embarking on an unpleasant journey to recover your good name and pilfered finances. Fortunately, tools are available to prevent and minimize potential losses. Here are two options to consider if you suspect your personal data has landed in the wrong hands.
Fraud alert. Say you lose your wallet or discover suspicious charges in your credit report. Don’t hesitate to contact one of the three main credit-reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax). That agency will contact the others. Report that your identity may have been compromised and ask the company to place a fraud alert in your credit file. When lenders and service providers see this warning, they’re supposed to take extra precautions before granting credit in your name. Fraud alerts are free and can be renewed indefinitely in 90-day intervals. This alternative isn’t failsafe, but if you suspect you’ve been victimized, setting up a fraud alert is a prudent first step.
Security freeze. Also known as a credit freeze, this option is more restrictive than a fraud alert. When you “freeze” your record, lenders aren’t allowed to see your credit report unless you grant permission by temporarily lifting the freeze. To start the process, contact all three credit bureaus. You may be asked to provide evidence (for example, a police report) that you’ve been the victim of identity theft. Otherwise, you may have to pay a fee each time you freeze or unfreeze your account. Processing times for establishing the freeze can vary. You’ll need to take that into consideration when you plan financial activities that require a credit check, such as a car loan, revising the terms of your mortgage, or applying for a new job.
Contact us if you need more suggestions for protecting your financial information.