If you discover that your personal information has been compromised, perhaps at your work or a company with which you do business, you first should realize that a breach of security—especially involving encoded data—does not necessarily mean that your identity has been stolen. It does, however, increase the potential that your information could be misused. As a result, you may wish to take certain precautionary steps immediately.
Place a Fraud Alert
You may place an initial 90-day fraud alert on your credit report. This alert can be canceled at any time and is renewable every 90 days. An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open accounts in your name, and you should be notified if there are any attempts to open new accounts using your personal information. You only need to contact one of the three national credit reporting agencies to place an alert; that agency then will contact the other two agencies. You may contact one of the following:
You can obtain an extended seven-year alert if you provide a valid police report showing that you have been a victim of identity theft. Additionally, an active-duty alert is available to individuals on active military duty.
Freeze Your Credit Reports
You may place a freeze on your credit reports. This prohibits a credit reporting agency from releasing information in your credit report without your express authorization or approval. A credit freeze is designed to prevent an imposter from using your information to be approved for credit, loans, or services in your name.
If you wish to freeze your credit with all three of the credit reporting agencies, you must send a request to each agency. You may send your requests in writing, by certified mail or other comparable service, or through a secured electronic method authorized by the credit reporting agencies.
The credit freeze will be put in place within three business days after the credit reporting agency receives your request. The credit reporting agency will send you written confirmation of the freeze within five business days. At the same time, the credit reporting agency will provide you a unique PIN or password (not your Social Security number) for verification purposes.
You can request a temporary lifting of the credit freeze at any time. If your request is in writing, the credit reporting agency is required to lift the freeze within three business days.
If your request is by electronic method or phone, the credit reporting agency is required to lift the freeze within 15 minutes.
There are fees associated with a credit freeze. A credit reporting agency may charge up to $5 to place a freeze, lift the freeze, or replace a lost PIN or password. There is no charge for a credit freeze if you are a victim of identity theft.
Monitor Your Credit Reports
You are entitled to receive one free credit report from each of the three national credit reporting agencies once per year. To request a copy of your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com
or call 1-877-322-8228.
Examine and continue to monitor your credit report carefully. Look for any unauthorized accounts. Also look for numerous requests for your information from prospective creditors, which may indicate that someone is attempting to open accounts using your information. If you discover any unauthorized use of your personal information, contact your local law enforcement.
Be Wary of Solicitations
Do not give your personal information to anyone who asks for it (online or over the phone) under the guise of helping you protect your personal information.
Learn about Identity Theft Resources
To obtain more information regarding data breaches of personal information or for help resolving problems caused by identity theft, contact:
Additional resources include: