When you believe that your personal information has been compromised, file either an initial alert or an extended alert.
An initial alert stays on your credit report for at least 90 days. You can ask that an initial fraud alert be placed on your credit report if you suspect you have been, or are about to be, a victim of identity theft. When you place an initial fraud alert on your credit report, you're entitled to order one free credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies, and, if you ask, only the last four digits of your Social Security number will appear on your credit reports.
An extended alert stays on your credit report for seven years. You can have an extended alert placed on your credit report if you've been a victim of identity theft and you provide the consumer reporting company with an Identity Theft Report. An automated Identity Theft Report, such as the printed ID Theft Complaint available from this website, should be sufficient to obtain an extended fraud alert. When you place an extended alert on your credit report, you're entitled to two free credit reports within twelve months from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies. In addition, the consumer reporting companies will remove your name from marketing lists for pre-screened credit offers for five years unless you ask them to put your name back on the list before then.
How To Detect Misuse Of Your Information
Worried about identity theft and fraud? Stay alert for the signs of identity theft, like:
- Accounts you didn't open and debts on your accounts that you can't explain.
- Fraudulent or inaccurate information on your credit reports, including accounts and personal information, like your Social Security number, address(es), name or initials, and employers.
- Failing to receive bills or other mail. Follow up with creditors if your bills don't arrive on time. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.
- Receiving credit cards that you didn't apply for.
- Being denied credit, or being offered less favorable credit terms, like a high interest rate, for no apparent reason.
- Getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn't buy.
How Do You Find Out If Your Identity Was Stolen?
Unfortunately, many consumers learn they their identity has been stolen after some damage has been done. You may find out your identify has been stolen when:
- Bill collection agencies contact you for overdue debts you never incurred.
- You apply for a mortgage or car loan and learn that problems with your credit history are holding up the loan.
- You get something in the mail about an apartment you never rented, a house you never bought, or a job you never held.
What Personal Information Should You Monitor Regularly?
Keep an eye out for any suspicious activity by routinely monitoring:
- Your financial statements. Monitor your financial accounts and billing statements regularly, looking closely for charges you did not make.
- Your credit reports. Credit reports contain information about you, including what accounts you have and how you pay your bills. The law requires each of the major nationwide consumer reporting agencies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. If an identity thief is opening credit accounts in your name, these accounts are likely to show up on your credit report. To find out, order a copy of your credit reports.
More Information on Your Credit Reports
Once you get your credit report, review them carefully:
- Look for inquiries from companies you haven't contacted, accounts you didn't open, and debts on your accounts that you can't explain.
- Check that information, like your Social Security number, address(es), name or initials, and employers are correct.
- If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed. See Correcting Fraudulent Information in Credit Reports to learn how.
- Continue to check your credit reports periodically, especially for the first year after you discover the identity theft, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
- Visit the AFGE Free Credit Report Benefits page for more information.