Your credit history can be used to secure loans and insurance policies as well as open credit cards. It’s essential to protect your credit, beginning with your credit report. Recently over 143 million consumers had sensitive personal information exposed in a data breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s 3 major credit reporting agencies. Each of the credit bureaus provides tools to help minimize the risk of your credit being used by unauthorized parties. Below are some steps to take to help protect yourself.
Monitor your Credit
Monitoring your credit report is the single best way to spot signs of identity theft, such as errors, suspicious activity and accounts or addresses you don’t recognize. The 3 credit bureaus provide 1 free credit report per year. It is recommended to request the credit report from only 1 of the credit bureaus at a time. By staggering your requests, you will receive a new credit report every 4 months and can monitor your accounts more frequently.
To order your free report: www.annualcreditreport.com
Implement a Credit Freeze
A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. A credit freeze prevents a person, merchant or institution from making an inquiry about your credit report unless you temporarily lift or remove the freeze. A credit freeze must be done separately for each of the 3 credit bureaus and each charges a fee for providing this service.
Lift a Credit Freeze
A credit freeze remains in place until you direct the credit bureau to either temporarily lift it or remove it entirely.
To place a freeze or lift a freeze, contact the following credit bureaus:
Place a Fraud Alert
If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. This warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name, is really you. You only need to contact 1 credit bureaus to have a fraud alert put in place as that bureau is required to share the alert with the other 2 bureaus.
To place a fraud alert, contact the following credit bureaus: