You can’t know when you might become a victim of fraud or identity theft, but you can be prepared to act. When you suspect you’ve been victimized, the very first thing to do is to contact one of the three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit reports. That credit bureau is required to notify the other two.
What is a fraud alert?
A fraud alert is a notification in your credit reports that alerts anyone reviewing your reports that you may have been a victim of fraud or identity theft. It indicates the need to take extra measures in vetting any requests for credit.
A fraud alert remains active for 90 days, after which it expires unless you request another 90-day alert if you think you’re still at risk. If you know for certain you’ve been victimized by fraud or identity theft, you can request an extended fraud alert, which remains in effect for seven years.
You can also request a credit freeze, which prevents lenders from even checking your credit reports. This is a stricter action which prevents you or others from opening a new credit account. If you want to open a new credit account, you can ask the credit bureaus to temporarily lift the freeze.
Take immediate action
Even if you don’t know for sure, but you think you’ve been victimized, there’s no time to waste. Contact one of the three credit bureaus immediately: