Credit & General Identity Protection
- Place a Security Freeze: Use these links to elect with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. For extra security, you can apply a freeze to a fourth, lesser-known consumer reporting agency, Innovis. This is the nuclear option of credit protection. It gives maximum defense. Depending on the state in which you reside, there may be a fee for placing the freeze. If you opt for a freeze, you will need to temporarily allow a company to check your credit each time you apply for credit, insurance, even open a cellular service account. The process can be done online but may take a few days. Unless you already are an identity theft victim, there may be a fee each time you unfreeze and refreeze your credit. Fees commonly range from $5 to $10, and are state dependent: check your state’s fee here. Banks and financial institutions where you already have accounts, as well as collection agencies and certain government agencies can still check your credit report. If you are applying for one of the better rated monitoring services, such as one of LifeLock, Identity Force, Identity Guard, or ID Watchdog, do it before placing the freeze, or you will have to lift it to complete the application.
- Place a Fraud Alert: Contact one of the 3 major credit bureaus; the one you report to will report it to the others. Contact Experian here, or TransUnion by phone: 1 800.680.7289. To be absolutely covered, you need to separately place another alert with Innovis. An alert lasts 90 days and warns prospective lenders that you are a victim of identity theft, and they should take extra steps to verify your identity. If you’re an ID-theft victim (e.g., Equifax), you can get a fraud alert that stays in place for seven years. But you may want to consider the 90-day alert, as it can serve as a reminder to get your free report each time you renew your alert. This way if you want, you can get up to 16 free reports per year in addition to the 4 free reports to which you are entitled.
- Get Your Free Credit Report 4 Times a Year: Visit AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 - Federal law requires each of the four credit reporting agencies to provide you with a free credit report each year. You can monitor your reports over time, getting one free report every 3 months by spreading out your requests.
- Request Free Annual Check Verification Report: Request your free annual consumer report from each of the big three check verification companies, ChexSystems, Certegy, and Telecheck.
- Set Limit Warnings on Financial Accounts: set limit warnings on all bank, checking, and credit card accounts. For instance, withdrawals or charges over a certain limit would generate an email or text.
- Review Monthly Statements: Review credit card, bank, retirement, brokerage, and other accounts every month. Alternatively, log in and check them even more frequently.
- Keep an Eye Out for Missing Mail: Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information. Consider enrolling in online statements to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen. Also, don't mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up.
- Review Your Healthcare Explanation of Benefits (EOB) Statements: You should be getting these from your health insurance providers in a month you receive service. Look for treatments you never received, and immediately report any suspicious entries.
- If You Are Subject to Identity Theft: Visit IdentityTheft.gov if you believe you have been the victim of identity theft, or if your personal information has been lost or exposed. IdentityTheft.gov is the government’s free, one-stop resource for reporting and recovering from identity theft, and offers free personal recover plans, which:
- Walk you through each recovery step.
- Generate pre-filled letters, affidavits, and forms for you to send to credit bureaus, businesses, debt collectors, and the IRS.
- Provide you with follow-up reminders, and help you track your progress.
- Provide advice about what to do if you’re affected by specific data breaches.
- IdentityTheft.gov has recovery plans for more than 30 types of identity theft, including tax-related identity theft and identity theft involving a child’s information.
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