As a preventive measure anyone can make it more difficult for an ID thief to get credit using their name by placing a 90-day “initial fraud alert” on their credit reports. This fraud alert is not as strong as a credit freeze but it also does not cost anything. It simply tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you. While it also may delay your ability to obtain instant credit, it’s a good deterrent tool. You may place a fraud alert in your file by calling just one of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies. Or simply go to one of the following websites to place the fraud alert. You do not need to suspect that your identity has been stolen but use it as a deterrent. It’s free but only last 90 days so you need to renew it every 3 months. However, if you are an ID theft victim you can place an extended alert that lasts for 7 years but you must provide an identity theft report that you filed with a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency. For more detailed information about the identity theft report, visit www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/. As soon as the credit reporting agency processes your fraud alert, it will notify the other two, which then also must place fraud alerts in your file.
Equifax: 1-877-576-5734; www.alerts.equifax.com
Experian: 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com/fraud
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com
A credit freeze is different from a fraud alert.