To protect yourself from possible identity theft, you may consider placing either a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit file.
Placing a Fraud Alert on Your Credit File
A fraud alert helps protect you against the possibility of an identity thief opening new credit accounts in your name. When a merchant checks the credit history of someone applying for credit, the merchant gets a notice that the applicant may be a victim of identity theft. The alert notifies the merchant to take steps to verify the identity of the applicant. You can report potential identity theft to all three of the major credit bureaus by calling any one of the toll-free fraud numbers below. You will reach an automated telephone system that allows you to flag your file with a fraud alert at all three bureaus.
You could also consider putting a “security freeze” or credit freeze on your credit file. A security freeze will generally prevent creditors from accessing your credit file at the three nationwide credit reporting agencies without your consent. However, please be aware that doing so may delay, prevent, or otherwise interfere with you getting approved for new loans, credit mortgages, employment, housing, or other services in a timely manner. After receiving your request, the credit bureaus will generally place a security freeze on your credit report within three days. To request a freeze, contact and place an order with each of the following credit agencies:
The credit agencies may charge a reasonable fee to place a security freeze. You will need to provide the following information when requesting a security freeze:
Your full name (including middle initial as well as Jr., Sr., II, III, etc.).
Social Security Number.
Date of birth.
If you have moved in the past five years, provide the addresses where you have lived over the prior five years.
Proof of current address such as a current utility bill or telephone bill.
A legible photocopy of a government-issued identification card (state driver’s license or ID card, military identification, etc.).
If you are a victim of identity theft, include a copy of the police report, investigative report, or complaint to a law enforcement agency concerning identity theft.
If you are not a victim of identity theft, include payment by check, money order, or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover only). Do not send cash through the mail. Security freezes are free to victims of identity theft.
Temporarily Lifting a Security Freeze
At some point after placing a security freeze on your file, you may want to temporarily lift it so that a specific entity or individual can access your credit report. You can specify how long you want the freeze to be lifted by either accessing your account or filling out a form online. Temporarily lifting the freeze will allow you to apply with multiple lenders in order to get the best rate, as long as the applications are processed within the time frame you specified.
Additional Information for Massachusetts Residents:
Placing a Credit Freeze: Massachusetts law also allows consumers to place a security freeze on their credit reports. See the description above about what a security freeze does and how to order them with each credit reporting agency. Under Massachusetts law, if you have been a victim of identity theft, and you provide the credit reporting agency with a valid police report, it cannot charge you to place, lift, or remove a security freeze. In all other cases, a credit reporting agency may charge you up to $5.00 each to place, temporarily lift, or permanently remove a security freeze.
Obtaining Police Reports: You have the right to obtain a police report relating to this incident. If you are the victim of identity theft, you also have the right to file a police report and obtain a copy of it.
Helpful Contacts: You can learn more about how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft by contacting the Federal Trade Commission to obtain additional information about how to avoid identity theft, how to place a fraud alert, and how to place a security freeze on your credit report.
Completely Removing a Security Freeze
To permanently remove a security freeze you can submit an online request, call the credit agency or send a written request by mail. After receiving your request, the credit agencies will remove the security freeze within a couple of days.