Place A Fraud Alert With Credit Bureaus
If you suspect your personal information has been exposed, place an initial fraud alert on your credit files so that applications in your name get extra scrutiny.
This alert is available to anyone who suspects identity theft. Contact any bureau, and it will take care of notifying the others:
The alert entitles you to another round of free credit reports, beyond the ones you get every 12 months by using AnnualCreditReport.com. These can help you discover fraudulent credit accounts.
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Dispute Errors Caused By Identity Theft
Identify theft can often result in a drop in your credit score and other errors, so you’ll want to dispute any problems as soon as possible. To dispute items on your Experian credit report, you can begin by initiating a report at the online dispute center, by phone or by mail.
To dispute errors, begin a new form, click on the disputed information on your report, select the reason why you are disputing the information, and submit. Experian will provide updates throughout the process, which normally takes about 30 days.
Once the dispute is resolved, you’ll learn whether the disputed information was deleted or remains because the information was deemed to be accurate. Filing a dispute won’t impact your credit score, but you may see changes based on the final decision regarding the disputed information. If your disputed information remains in your file, you can appeal this, but you’ll need to gather more information to prove your case.
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Identity Theft Or A Mixed Credit File Is Dragging You Down
A much lower score than you expected might mean that someone elses credit activity is being reported as yours. This could be because a criminal is using your credit card number or opening new accounts in your name.
It could also happen if you have the same name as someone else and your credit files have become mixed with theirs. Both should be disputed with the credit bureaus.
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Requesting A Fraud Alert Online
Each of the three credit bureaus has an online webpage dedicated to helping victims of identity theft.
- Experians Fraud Center provides online tools for adding a fraud alert, removing a fraud alert, learning how to respond to identity theft, and reviewing a copy of your report.
- Equifax allows you to fill out initial alerts on one website page. The company also provides an extended fraud alert request form that you can print, complete, and either fax or mail in.
- You may also contact TransUnions Fraud Victim Assistance Department through its website.
When you visit the agencies websites, each allows you to fill out forms online. You can choose to place a 90-day fraud alert or seven-year fraud alert. Again, the extended fraud alert requires that you submit a police report, indicating youre an identity theft victim.
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What Is A Credit Freeze
When you freeze your credit, your credit-report file is locked. This makes it impossible for lenders and identity fraudsters to open the account or inquire about your credit history until you remove the freeze. Freezing your credit file therefore provides you with protection against the kind of fraud often perpetrated by identity thieves. It also prevents unauthorized access to your personal data.
If you freeze your credit file after your personal data has already been compromised, the freeze can only help you to prevent future breaches of the file. It cant help you fix the breach that has already occurred. A scammer who is already privy to your account number and other personal data can still use your card to make purchases. Even worse, the scammer can sell the stolen information to other bad guys online.
To avoid such breaches, make sure that your personal data is always secure so that when you eventually can obtain a credit card freeze, it will be useful. To be as safe as possible , it is imperative that you protect all your personal data from theft as thoroughly as you can.
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Get A Free Copy Of Your Credit Report
Its important to check your credit report frequently annually, if not more often so you can catch any irregularities early on.
Under federal law, you have the right to obtain a free credit report from all three major credit bureaus once a year. However, because of the pandemic, all three bureaus are offering free weekly reports until April 2022.
You can request yours through AnnualCreditReport.com, the only free credit report website authorized by the federal government. Make sure to request and check your reports from all three bureaus since its not uncommon for each one to get different information from creditors and lenders.
You can also request them by:
Mail: Download, print, and complete the request form and mail to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
In addition to your annual report, you can request additional free copies if:
- You were denied credit, insurance, or employment based on your credit in the past 60 days
- There are sudden changes in your credit limit or insurance coverage
- Youre receiving government benefits
- Youre a victim of identity fraud
- Youre unemployed and/or will apply for employment within 60 days from the date of your request
Other ways to get your credit report
Each of the major bureaus offers credit monitoring services that include access to your report and your score, among other benefits.
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What Do I Do Next Ongoing Steps To Take
As weve talked about in some of my other blog posts, identity theft can be a long-term problem where follow-up instances of theft can crop up over time. However, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the damage and ensure it doesnt happen again. I cover several of those steps in detail in this blog here, yet lets take a look at a few of the top items as they relate to SSN theft:
Consider placing a fraud alert.
Look into an all-out credit freeze.
A full credit freeze is in place until you lift it and will prohibit creditors from pulling your credit report altogether. This can help stop thieves dead in their tracks since approving credit requires pulling a report. However, this applies to legitimate inquires, including any that you make, like opening a new loan or signing up for a credit card. If thats the case, youll need to take extra steps as directed by the particular institution or lender. Unlike the fraud alert, youll need to notify each of the three major credit bureaus when you want the freeze lifted.
Monitor your credit reports.
Once every 12 months, you can access a free credit report from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Doing so will allow you to spot any future discrepancies and offer you options for correcting them.
Sign up for an identity protection service.
Who Can Access My Credit Report If I Place A Credit Freeze
If you place a credit freeze, you will continue to have access to your free annual credit report. Youll also be able to buy your credit report and credit score even after placing a credit freeze.
Companies that you do business with will still have access to your credit report for example, your mortgage, credit card, or cell phone company as would collection agencies that are working for one of those companies.
Companies will also still be able to offer you pre-screened credit. Those are the credit offers you receive in the mail that you have not applied for. Additionally, in some states, potential employers, insurance companies, landlords, and other non-creditors can still get access to your credit report with a credit freeze in place.
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Report The Identity Theft To Authorities
After notifying the credit bureaus, itâs time to let the government know whatâs going on. The Federal Trade Commission is the agency in charge of protecting consumers from deceptive, unfair business practices. Itâs also where you report identity theft.5 File your identity theft with the FTC by visiting identitytheft.gov.6
The FTC will then provide a personalized recovery plan and Identity Theft Report. This report will help guarantee certain rights. Youâll need it to get false information removed from your credit report and keep debt collectors from contacting you.2
Next, you can file a police report. You may need it to repair the damage done to your credit. To let the authorities know something is wrong, youâll provide the following:2
- Proof of your address
- Proof of the theft notices, etc.)
It may take a few weeks, but with the authorities and formal documentation on your side, you should have what you need to start fixing the mistakes.
- Personalized recovery plan from the FTC
- Identity Theft Report from the FTC
- Police report
Write To The Credit Bureaus
Write a letter to each credit bureau. Repeat what you said in your telephone call . Send copies of your police report and completed ID Theft Affidavit. Remind the credit bureaus that they must block or remove any information that you, as an identity theft victim, say is a result of the theft. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested. Keep a copy of each letter. See the Sample Letter to Credit Bureaus on page 7.
P.O. Box 2000Chester, PA 19016
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Requesting A Fraud Alert By Phone
If you prefer reaching out by phone, you can call to request a 90-day fraud alert, but not an extended alert. Your call will likely be answered and handled by an automated system, so dont expect to speak with someone. When you call, be ready to provide your Social Security number, mailing address to which your bills are delivered, and birthdate.
How Can I Protect My Credit
Check fraud does not involve accessing a credit report, so neither a temporary security alert nor a fraud victim statement will stop the check fraud. But, adding a security alert to your credit reports may help protect you from new credit fraud resulting from the theft of your identity if the identity thief attempts to open new credit accounts using your identifying information.
You can add a temporary, initial security alert to your credit report quickly and easily online with Experian’s Fraud Center. The initial alert lasts for 12 months and will be seen by anyone accessing your credit report. It lets potential lenders know that your personal information has been compromised and that someone may be trying to apply for credit in your name fraudulently, and it asks them to take extra steps to verify your identity before approving credit in your name.
When you add an alert with Experian, a notice will be sent automatically to TransUnion and Equifax so that they can add alerts to their files as well.
Initial security alerts are intended for people who know or have reason to believe they are at increased risk of credit fraud. For example, they may have lost their wallet or purse, or they may have received a notice that their identifying information was compromised as the result of a computer data breach.
A fraud victim statement lasts seven years, and like an initial security alert, is provided to every business that requests your credit report.
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If You Are Wrongly Accused Of A Crime Committed By An Identity Thief
“Criminal identity theft” is a label given to a particular type of identity theft. Criminal identity theft occurs when a suspect in a criminal investigation identifies himself or herself using the identity of another, innocent person. A special database in the California Department of Justice can help victims of this kind of identity theft. See our Consumer Information Sheet 8: How to Use the California Identity Theft Registry- A Guide for Victims of “Criminal” Identity Theft.
The Road Ahead: Rebuilding Your Credit And Finances
The IRS says it typically takes 120 days or less to address cases of identity theft, but due to extenuating circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRSs identity theft inventories have increased dramatically. Its taking them 260 days on average to resolve identity theft cases.
This doesnt even include the time and resources needed to address other consequences of identity theft, such as unauthorized loans, credit cards, and purchases. Depending on how deep the theft goes and how available your personal information was, the financial ramifications can often last months or even years.
The important thing to do is to remain vigilant. This means:
In some cases, you may want to involve a lawyer especially if your investments, retirement accounts, mortgage, or other major financial products have been affected. They can help you traverse the legal issues that crop up with creditors, lenders, and financial institutions along the way.
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When Does Wells Fargo Report To Credit Bureaus
Wells Fargo reports to all major credit reporting agencies. Credit card issuers typically report to bureaus at the same time as your monthly billing statement or soon after. In some cases, changes may be reflected right away in your credit report in others, it may take more than a month to update. If, for example, you pay your bill before you receive the billing statement, you will see a change on your credit report sooner than if you paid the bill just after receiving the statement.
Signs Of Identity Theft
Signs of identity theft might include:
- Receiving bills for items you did not buy, accounts you dont recognize, or medical services you did not use
- Charges on your credit card or bank statements you dont believe are yours
- Notification that an unfamiliar account has been turned over to a collections agency, or receiving calls from debt collectors about a debt that isnt yours
- Unexplained withdrawals from your bank account
- You stop receiving bills or other mail
- Notification that more than one tax return was filed in your name
- Denial of credit because of the fraudsters actions
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Why Is My Credit Score Low Even Though I Pay My Bills On Time
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If your credit score is lower than you thought it would be, you probably want to know why and what it will take to fix it.
It can be especially perplexing if you thought you always paid on time and expected to have a good credit score. Here are five reasons you may be in a lower credit score range than expected.
What To Do If Your Identity Has Been Stolen
If you are a victim of identity theft, the FTC recommends taking the following four steps as soon as possible.
As you work through these steps, it’s important to keep a record with the details of all your conversations and copies of all correspondence.
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File A Police Report Ideally Where The Crime Occurred
If you have any suspicion that your information is being used by a thief, contact local law enforcement immediately. The case is more likely to be investigated where the crime took place. If necessary, file it where you live or where the suspected thief lives.
Filing a police report triggers helpful protections under both federal and state law, such as an extended fraud alert and a free security freeze, which stops access to new credit in your name.
Through IdentityTheft.gov, you will be putting together information to create an ID Theft Affidavit. Together, your ID Theft Affidavit and your police report create an Identity Theft Report that you will use as you contact creditors to try to restore your credit.
Note that most law enforcement will not issue a police report until your private information is actually used by an identity thief.
Report Identity Theft To The Ftc
Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov or 877-438-4338. This preserves your rights, including your ability to get fraudulent accounts off your credit report.
At the site, you can also get a customized checklist to help you repair the damage. After reporting your identity theft to the FTC, you may also choose to file a report with your local police department. Take a copy of the FTC report with you.
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