Protect Yourself from Fraud and Identity Theft
Cyber criminals are on the prowl to obtain your information. They are becoming more and more sophisticated every day. They can ruin your credit and make your life miserable for years. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to protect your credit information stored at the credit bureaus. While protecting your credit report does not protect you from information criminals obtain through medical records or merchants, it can deter most identity theft that involves a thief opening loans or accounts using your good name and credit.
It is important to protect yourself, but it is also important to protect your children. Even a minor’s personal information can be used by a thief. There are several things you can do to protect yourself and your family. It is well worth the time to take the steps outlined below to secure your family’s credit.
Freeze Credit Reports
Freezing access to your credit information at credit bureaus can go a long way to protect against identity theft and the opening of fraudulent accounts or loans using the information in your file. With a freeze, your information cannot be accessed by institutions or lenders unless they previously reported information to the file. The credit bureau will give or allow you to create a PIN to be used to unfreeze your report. Keeping your PIN secure and where it won’t be lost is crucial. It is a good idea to store the PIN in several locations. It is also important to freeze your file at all four credit bureaus.
You can freeze your file by going to each of the sites listed below and following the instructions. It is important to go to all four sites. Be sure to record and protect your PIN. Phone numbers are also listed for those who prefer to call instead.
Experian: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html 1.888.397.3742
Equifax: https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp 1.800.349.9960
TransUnion: http://www.transunion.com/securityfreeze 1.888.909.8872
Innovis: https://www.innovis.com/personal/securityfreeze 1.800.540.2505
There may be fees required to freeze and/or unfreeze accounts at the various credit bureaus.
Review Credit Report Each Year
The law requires that every consumer have access to their credit information for free once a year. You can get your free credit report by going to annualcreditreport.com or calling 877.322.8228 and following the instructions. Be wary of other sites that say they offer free credit reports, they may not be free, or worse, they may steal your information.
Review your report for suspicious activity like new or re-opened accounts, unauthorized co-borrowers, incorrect address and the like.
It is not free to retrieve a FICO score. First Priority Credit Union will be happy to share your latest score provided to the credit union by Experian.
A fraud alert is placed on a credit file by a credit bureau whenever a consumer reports that they are a victim of fraud or identity theft. The fraud alert must be renewed every 90 days. With documentation that a police report has been filed, the fraud alert may be extended to seven years. When a fraud alert is placed on a credit file, potential creditors must contact the consumer to obtain permission to open new loans or accounts.
Contacting Equifax, Experian or Transunion requires the credit bureau to notify the other two. Innovis must be contacted separately. The phone numbers are listed below.
Experian: https://www.experian.com/fraud/center.html 888.397.3742
Equifax: https://www.alerts.equifax.com/AutoFraud_Online/jsp/fraudAlert.jsp 800.525.6285
TransUnion: https://www.transunion.com/fraud-victim-resource/place-fraud-alert 800.680.7289
Innovis: https://www.innovis.com/personal/fraudActiveDutyAlerts 800.540.2505
Please don’t delay taking the time to secure your information. The effort and minimal fees involved can save you mountains of grief.