Tip #1: Watch for signs that your personal information is being misused.
Examples to look out for include receiving bills late, being denied a loan or credit line, being contacted by debt collectors, or receiving credit cards you did not apply for or merchandise or services you did not purchase.
Tip #2: Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit file.
Fraud alerts tell potential creditors that they should take special precautions to verify the identity of the applicant. Remember that you may find it more difficult to get new credit while there is a fraud alert on your credit file. You may place a 90-day "initial fraud alert" on your file by calling any one of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies at their designated toll-free numbers (listed below). The company you call will inform the other two companies.
If you are an identity theft victim and submit an identity theft report like a police report, you can place an "extended" seven-year alert on your file.
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
If an initial alert is on a credit file, creditors must use reasonable policies and procedures to verify the identity of the person requesting credit, including calling the consumer at a telephone number designated on the fraud alert. If an extended alert is on a credit file, the creditor must contact the consumer at the telephone number designated on the extended alert.
When you place a fraud alert with one of the three credit reporting companies, you will receive information about ordering one free credit report from each of the three companies.
Tip #3: Check your credit report.
You can order it online at http://www.annualcreditreport.com, or by calling toll free 1-877-322-8228, or by writing Annual Credit Report Request Service, Box 105281, Atlanta GA 30384-5281.
Once you receive your credit report, review it for suspicious activity such as inquiries from companies you did not contact, accounts you did not open, and unexplained charges on accounts. Check that other information such as your address, date of birth or employer, is correct.
Tip #4: Consider a credit "freeze".
Credit freezes prohibit anyone from accessing your credit history. You will need a PIN if you have frozen your credit file, and would have received it when you first requested that your credit history be frozen. If a credit freeze is in place, it is unlikely that creditors would open a new account because they can't determine the credit-worthiness of the applicant. As you must unfreeze your credit file before applying for credit or other services that require accessing your credit history, such as opening a new cellular telephone account or applying for a new job, identity thief nor the actual consumer would be able to get credit while a freeze is in effect.
Some states restrict the right to freeze a credit file to identity theft victims - people whose information has been misused either to create new accounts or engage in other identity-related fraud. Other states allow anyone to freeze their credit file. Almost all states that have freeze laws require that a freeze be free for identity theft victims, but some states make a freeze available to any consumer for a fee that typically ranges from $10 to $15. Almost all states impose a fee for "unfreezing" the report when a consumer is seeking some credit related transaction. If you choose to put a credit freeze in place, you will have to contact each of the three consumer reporting companies.
Tip #5: What should you do if you become a victim of identity theft?
- File a complaint with your local police;
- If you have chosen the credit protection offered, call the Experian’s National Consumer Assistance Center at https://www.experian.com/fraud/center.html or 1-888-397-3742. They post an initial security alert on your credit file that allows creditors to notify you if there is a request to confirm your identity before extending credit. Submit your police report to Experian who employs special system procedures and matching criteria to ensure that fraudulent data is removed within 45 days of receipt;
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at http://www.ftc.gov or 1-877-438-4338. The FTC website also has step-by-step instructions on other measures to take, including an ID Theft Affidavit that consumers can use when disputing unauthorized accounts; and
- Notify the Privacy Office so that we can try to determine any linkage between this event and the misuse of your identity.