GUEST BLOGGER: LIZ VANCE
Identity fraud refers to crime in which a criminal obtains and uses a victim's personal data through fraud or deception and usually for economic gain. If you were a victim of identity fraud would you know what to do? I hope you never have to find out, but just in case it happens to one of us one day I’m going to share with you a few of the 10 steps that U.S. News & World Report talked about in a recent article. If you’d like to read about all of the 10 steps you can find the whole article here. Here's what stuck out to me...
“Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.”
Placing a fraud alert on your credit reports notifies anyone pulling your credit report that all the information may not be correct due to identity fraud. This should alert them to take extra precautions when extending credit and verifying it is actually you they are working with. You can put a fraud alert in place by reaching out to one of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You only have to contact one of the three and the other two will be notified and put the fraud alert on as well. Check out this video about fraud alerts.
“Freeze your credit.”
Freezing your credit will stop any new activity with your credit. Any attempts to open new lines of credit will be denied. Don’t worry, you’ll still be able to use your credit cards like normal, you just won’t be able to apply for any new credit cards or loans. You’ll need to contact each of the three credit bureaus to put a credit freeze on each one. You can even put credit freezes on your kid’s credit reports so their credit can’t be messed with either. Just be sure to lift the freeze before you try to get any new loans or credit of any kind. Check out this video about credit freezes.
“Review your credit reports for mystery accounts.”
On annualcreditreport.com you can check your credit report for free once a year per credit bureau. Keeping tabs on your credit report will help you spot any mistakes or fraud so you can get it fixed. A great way to keep your eye on your credit report all year is to check one of the three credit bureaus every 4 months. For example, you could check Equifax in January, Experian in May, and TransUnion in September. However you decide to do it, just be sure to report any inaccurate information so it can get taken care of. Check out this video about checking your credit report for free.
These are all things that can help if you are a victim of identity fraud but the only one that is preventative is freezing your credit. If you don’t have plans to apply for new credit any time soon (i.e. new credit card, car loan, or mortgage) then freezing your credit can be a great step to prevent fraud. No one wants to deal with identity fraud aftermath, so do your best now to avoid that awful situation.
Good luck out there!
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