2. Preventing Identity Theft
Order a FREE credit report every year
All Americans are eligible to receive one free credit report
each year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies
. It’s a good idea to order your credit report
from each of the three credit reporting agencies
once a year. Review each report carefully to make sure there are no errors—the three different agencies may each have slightly different information. Make sure there is no activity that seems fishy. A credit card
that you don't remember applying for or an address where you never lived might be a sign of identity theft
When you order your report, be prepared with your Social Security
Number, date of birth, current and previous addresses for the past five years, and maiden name, if applicable.
Requesting your free credit report
will NOT affect your credit score
To order a free credit report
, visit www.annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report
Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report
Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The US Federal Trade Commission
website is an excellent resource in Spanish or English about credit ftc
.gov/credit. You may also contact one or more of the credit reporting agencies
Equifax: 1-800-685-1111, www.equifax.com
Experian: 1-888-397-3742, www.experian.com
TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800, www.transunion.com
Consider a credit freeze
Many states have laws that let consumers “freeze” their credit—in other words, letting consumers restrict access to their credit reports. If you place a credit freeze, potential creditors and other third parties will not be able to get access to your credit report unless you temporarily lift the freeze. This means that an identity thief wouldn’t be able to open a new account in your name. Placing a credit freeze does not affect your credit score, nor does it keep you from getting your free annual credit report or from buying your credit score.
Credit freeze laws vary from state to state. In some states, anyone can freeze their credit file, while in other states, only identity theft victims can. The cost of placing, temporarily lifting, and removing a credit freeze also varies. Many states make credit freezes free for identity theft victims, while other consumers pay a fee—typically $10. It’s also important to know that these costs are for each of the credit reporting agencies. If you want to freeze your credit, it would mean placing the freeze with each of three credit reporting agencies and paying the fee to each one.
While a credit freeze can help keep an identity thief from opening most new accounts in your name, it’s not a solution to all types of identity theft. For example, it will not protect you from an identity thief who uses your existing credit cards or other accounts. There are also new accounts, such as telephone, wireless, and bank accounts, which a thief could open without a credit check. In addition, some creditors might open an account without first getting your credit report. And, if there’s identity theft already going on when you place the credit freeze, the freeze itself won’t be able to stop it. While a credit freeze may not protect you in these kinds of cases, it can protect you from the vast majority of identity theft that involves opening a new line of credit.