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Information Security

Protecting Your Credit

Placing a Fraud Alert

A fraud alert is an alert that the three major credit reporting companies attach to your credit file. When you, or someone else, attempt to open a credit account the lender should contact you by phone to verify that you want to open the new account. If you cannot be reached by phone, the credit account should not be opened. However, a creditor is not required by law to contact you if you have fraud alert in place. Fraud alerts can legally be ignored by creditors.

To place a fraud alert, call one of the following three major credit reporting agencies. Your phone call will take you to an automated phone system. Be sure to listen carefully to the selections and indicate that you are at risk for credit fraud.

You need only contact one of these agencies, which will automatically forward the fraud alert to the other two.

Equifax
Consumer Fraud Division
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
(888) 766-0008
http://www.equifax.com
Experian
Credit Fraud Center
P.O. Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013
(888) 397-3742
http://www.experian.com/fraud
TransUnion
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
(888) 766-0008
http://www.transunion.com/

Within 24 hours, an alert will be placed on your credit file with all three major credit reporting companies. Each of the credit reporting companies will send you a current copy of your credit report by mail. The reports should arrive in one to two weeks. If you find anything that looks wrong or suspicious or that you don’t understand in a credit report, call the credit agency at the telephone number listed on the credit report. You may also wish to call your local police or sheriff’s office to file a report of identity theft. All three agencies will also remove your name from all pre-approved credit card and insurance offer lists for two years.

The only potential drawback to activating a fraud alert would occur when you attempt to open a new account. You would need to be available at either your work phone number or home phone number in order to approve opening the new credit account. If you are not available at either of those numbers, the creditor may not open the account.

If you suspect that you are or have already been a victim of identity theft, fraud alerts are only a small part of protecting your credit. You also need to pay close attention to your credit report to make sure that the only credit inquiries or new credit accounts in your file are yours.

For Those Without Established Credit

The California Office of Privacy Protection information sheet offers fraud-prevention suggestions to those without established credit.

Placing a Security Freeze

A security freeze means that your credit file cannot be shared with potential creditors. If your credit files are frozen, even someone who has your name and Social Security number would probably not be able to get credit in your name. A security freeze is free to those who have a police report of identity theft. If you don’t have a police report, it costs $10 to place a freeze with each credit bureau, for a total of $30. Costs may vary outside California. The credit bureaus require that freeze requests be made in writing.

Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348

  • Send by certified mail.
  • Include name, current and former address, Social Security number and date of birth.
  • Pay by check, money order or credit card (Visa, Master Card, American Express or Discover only). Give name of credit card, account number and expiration date.

Experian Security Freeze
P. O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013

  • Send by certified mail.
  • Include full name, with middle initial and Jr./Sr., etc.
  • Include current address and home addresses for past five years, Social Security number, birth date and two proofs of residence (copy of driver’s license, utility bill, insurance statement, bank statement).
  • Pay by check, money order or credit card. Give name of credit card, account number and expiration date.

TransUnion Security Freeze
P. O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834

  • Send by regular or certified mail.
  • Include first name, middle initial, last name, Jr., etc.
  • Current home address and addresses for past five years, Social Security number and birth date.
  • Pay by check, money order or credit card. Give name of credit card, account number and expiration date.

Only you can request a security freeze be placed on your credit file and only you can request the security freeze be removed or temporarily lifted. A security freeze will remain on your credit file until you request the security freeze be permanently removed or you request a temporary lift of the security freeze for a specific credit grantor/credit file user or date range.

A security freeze will require you to plan ahead for all your credit applications as you will need to contact the credit reporting agencies to request that they temporarily lift your freeze to allow them to report your credit file to the credit grantor you identify. Under the laws of most states, it may take up to three business days to process your request to temporarily lift the security freeze. It may take longer if you have lost the security freeze confirmation number which is provided to you when you first request the security freeze be placed on your credit file. You may not be able to request a temporary lift of a security freeze during non-business hours or on weekends. A security freeze may hinder your ability to immediately obtain credit to make major purchases. Accordingly, if you are credit active and apply for credit on a regular basis and have a security freeze on your credit file you need to be especially mindful of the need to plan ahead and contact the credit agencies in advance to request a temporary lift of the security freeze on your credit file. An alternative for people concerned about fraud but who are not victims, or people who have been victims but have resolved the problem, may be a credit monitoring service through one of the credit agencies. Such services alert you of key changes in your credit file usually within 24 hours so you can take action quickly to stop any further fraud without the inconvenience of freezing and it will not prevent credit grantors from accessing your credit file.