When you're starting out on your own and establishing a good credit history to help you make a large future purchase, you may be shocked to receive a collection letter on a credit card or loan that you never requested. If this happens or if you have another reason to believe you're the victim of identity theft, you can place a consumer, or fraud, alert on your credit report. This blocks additional credit accounts from being opened in your name and Social Security number without your permission. Consumer alerts also may help you prevent creditors from reporting erroneous information about your credit history because someone used your identity to fraudulently open an account.
Order your free annual credit report from the three major reporting bureaus: Experian, TransUnion or Equifax. You can request a report from each one or order them online from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Review your credit reports thoroughly and check for entries of credit or loans that you did not request. You may be a victim of fraud and need to place a consumer alert on your credit information so no more accounts will be open in your name without your knowledge.
Contact one of the major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit report. By placing an alert with one bureau, the other two will be contacted. You may also access the bureaus online. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com and click on the "Fraud Alert" tab at the top of the page for contact information.
Have your Social Security number handy and be ready to provide a phone number where you may be easily reached. The credit bureaus will call you if someone attempts to open credit in your name after you place your consumer alert.
Place a 90-day fraud alert on your file. You can do this if you suspect fraud occurred or may occur. This prevents new or extended credit being opened in your name for a three-month period.
Request an extended seven-year fraud alert on your credit report. You will need to supply a document, such as a police report, proving you are a victim of fraud. The credit bureau will call you to confirm the extended alert.
Request another free credit report one to three months later to ensure your file is free of fraud. After you place your consumer alert, you have the right to obtain one to two more credit reports, depending on the type of hold you initiate.
- If you want to apply for credit during the time you have a consumer alert on your credit report, credit bureaus will contact you by phone to ensure that theft of your identity is not occurring.
- Call the credit bureaus to place a consumer alert for your child. Your child may not have an active credit report, so if you suspect fraudulent activity using your child's information, provide a birth certificate and Social Security number to the reporting agencies. You also may be required to provide your personal information to complete the fraud alert.
- To remove a fraud alert from your credit report, write a letter to all three credit bureaus and include your Social Security number and birthday along with your regular contact information. The credit bureau may offer the ability to remove the alert online.
Carol Deeb has been an editor and writer since 1988. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers and online publications, as well as a book on education. Deeb is a real-estate investor and business owner with professional experience in human resources. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from San Diego State University.