Identity theft is one of the most frightening buzzwords out there on the waves right now. Once a thief gets a hold of your identity data, he or she can literally run straight away with your credit rating and cause damage that could take years and years to repair. If you suspect that somebody might be nibbling away at your credit or just want to be a little more secure with your personal financial information, you should consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report.
But what exactly does this mean? A fraud alert is when you attach a little notice to your credit that tells creditors to get in touch with you via phone if anybody tries to open up a credit account in your name. If you aren’t reachable by phone, or you deny the request, the account cannot be opened.
Obviously, this is a great way to run a spot check to see if any wandering hands are trying to take control of your credit. The downside is that fraud alerts are not foolproof – creditors are not required by law to honor them and you may still end up with accounts open in your name. Nevertheless, fraud alerts are a great way to either start tightening up on your credit information or check to see if an identity thief is trying to latch on to your information.
You can attach a fraud alert to your account by contacting the fraud department of the credit bureaus and asking them to flag your personal credit file for fraud. Consider using your cell phone number as a contact point, as it’ll be more versatile and you’ll have quicker notice of somebody trying to access your credit as compared to a landline.
You can also request a fraud alert through the Internet: give www.alerts.equifax.com or www.experian.com/fraud a look to see specific requirements and get more information on the process of getting a fraud alert online.
In the event that you find out that somebody has been tampering with your credit or you want to take more drastic measures, you could also consider a credit freeze, as this allows you to freeze all access to your credit file. However, credit freezes are harder to get and place many more restrictions on your credit history, making it more difficult for you to access your credit, as well, so consider a freeze as a last resort. Until you feel the need to turn to such drastic measures, a fraud alert is a great way to start feeling more secure about your credit.