If you suspect you have become a victim of identity theft, it is important to act quickly. The first thing you should do if you are worried that your identity has been compromised is to place a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert asks creditors to make sure they contact you or verify your identity before granting a new line of credit under your name or increasing the credit limit on one of your accounts. Taking this precaution will make it harder for criminals to commit identity fraud with your personal information.
There are three types of fraud alerts. The kind you use will depend on your situation.
Types of fraud alert
- Initial fraud alert: If you place an initial fraud alert on your credit report, it will be valid for 90 days. Placing an initial fraud alert tells lenders that they should verify your identity before fulfilling any credit request.
- Extended fraud alert: An extended fraud alert lasts for seven years and can be obtained only if you have a valid police report confirming that you have been a victim of identity theft. An extended fraud alert also requires credit reporting companies to remove your name from lists of prescreened credit offers. Your name will be removed from these marketing lists for five years, unless you request to be included again.
- Active duty alert: An active duty alert is similar to an initial fraud alert except that it is for active military personnel only and lasts for 12 months instead of 90 days. It also means that you won’t receive prescreened offers for insurance or credit cards for two years.
If you decide you want to remove a fraud alert, you will need to send a written request to the fraud department of the credit bureau (or bureaus) where the alert was placed.
Reporting identity theft
Placing a fraud alert on your credit report is an important first step to take if you suspect you may be a victim of identity theft. Unfortunately, the fraud alert system is not perfect. Creditors do not always pay attention to fraud alerts, sometimes choosing to ignore them and grant a new line of credit anyway. If you strongly suspect that you have been a victim of identity theft, you may want to consider placing a credit freeze on your credit report. A credit freeze is a more serious step to take because it freezes all access to your credit file.
If you suspect you are the victim of identity theft, learn more about how to report the crime and minimize the damage to your identity. You may also want to look into credit monitoring services or identity theft protection companies to reduce your risk of becoming a victim in the future.