Fraud Alerts and Credit Freeze ServicesThursday, October 20, 2011

CredAbility Offers Tips to Help Consumers Restore their Good Name
Protect Your Identity Week is October 16-22

Atlanta, GA — Whether you are a consumer taking proactive steps to protect yourself from identity theft, or one of the more than 8 million consumers whose life was touched by identity theft last year, understanding your options can be challenging. Fraud alerts, credit freezes, and monitoring and protection services can all play a role in protecting your identity or helping you if you become a target.

October 16-22 is Protect Your Identity Week. CredAbility helps consumers understand their options when it comes to protecting their identity.

Fraud Alerts
While fraud alerts won’t prevent an identity thief from using accounts you already have, they can help prevent them from opening any more accounts in your name. An initial fraud alert, which stays on your credit report for at least 90 days, is a good idea if you suspect you have been, or are about to be, a victim of identity theft. It is a great step to take if your wallet has been stolen, or if you think you may have been scammed by a telephone or internet marketer and have given out personal information. When you place an initial fraud alert on your credit report, potential creditors must use what the law refers to as “reasonable policies and procedures” to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name.

If you are the victim of identity theft, you can place an extended fraud alert on your credit report for seven years. A formal complaint report must be submitted to place the alert and, once placed, creditors must contact you or meet with you in person before they issue you credit.

Fraud alerts can be removed from your credit report at your request with appropriate documentation. Keep in mind that while a fraud alert can protect you from further damage from identity thieves, there may also be delays in your legitimate attempts to obtain credit. Keep information current, and consider including a cell phone number for quick access.

Placing fraud alerts – Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies to place an initial fraud alert on your credit report (TransUnion 800.680.7289; Equifax 800.525.6285 and Experian 888.397.3742). You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too. If you do not receive a confirmation from a company, you should contact that company directly to place a fraud alert.

Credit Freeze
A credit freeze can protect you from the vast majority of identity theft that involves opening a new line of credit. The freeze is permanent and once placed, potential creditors and other third parties will not be able to get access to your credit report unless you temporarily lift the freeze, making it unlikely that an identity thief would 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 report or score. In most states, there is no fee for identity theft victims to place a freeze. In other cases, there may be a fee to place the freeze, lift it temporarily, or remove it altogether. Find more information on fees for your state here: http://www.consumersunion.org/campaigns/learn_more/003484indiv.html. Placing a credit freeze requires that you contact each of the reporting bureaus individually.

Identity Theft Protection Services
If you’ve had an identity theft problem and feel you may need the services of a private company, you may want to consider subscribing to an ID Theft Protection Service. Prices for these services range from about $100 to $250 annually and they provide such services as placing and renewing fraud alerts on your credit reports, requesting removal of your address from junk mail lists and pre-approved credit card mailings, ordering your free credit reports on your behalf, contacting creditors in the event of a lost or stolen wallet, and providing resources to help you if you are the victim of identity theft while a member of their service.

Do you really need to pay for credit monitoring or identity theft protection? CredAbility does not endorse any credit monitoring or identity theft protection service. Consumers willing to invest a little time can take all the same steps these services do on their own behalf. If you do opt to sign up for a service, understand the specific terms of coverage and the limitations of each policy.

“Taking steps to protect your identity is the responsibility of every consumer,” said Mechel Glass, director of education for CredAbility. “Guarding your personal information, monitoring what’s in your credit report, and taking swift action in the event of suspicious activity all go a long way in protecting your good name.”