When spring arrives, the world starts to get a little more colorful and spirits rise. It is out with the old and in with the new. This is especially true if you have been a victim of fraud! It can be incredibly frustrating to have someone known or unknown take advantage of you. But take heart because today is a new day! Remember that you can’t control what other people do but you can control how you respond.
When you first suspect there may be fraud taking place, even if you are not yet sure, do three things right away.
1. Place a Freeze on Your Credit Reports
First, place a freeze on your credit reports. You do not need to have proof of fraud to use a credit freeze. This free tool allows you to block any new credit from being opened in your name while the freeze is in place. Contact each of the three credit bureaus to place freeze on your reports. Keep in mind you will need to unfreeze your account if you authorize a credit report pull. So if you apply for a new job or a car loan you will need to unfreeze your reports. For more details, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
2. Lock Your Credit/Bank Cards From Use
Use your credit card or bank app to lock your cards from use. Most credit cards now have apps available through the banks. These valuable tools allow you to monitor purchase made on the account and with a swipe you can lock the account instantly. Pro tip: Keep your credit cards locked when not in use. Cards can be locked an unlocked with a touch of the screen so why would you have a card unlocked when not in use? When you want to use, unlock it. It is easy and convenient.
3. Set a Fraud Alert
You only need to inform one of the three major credit bureaus—Experian, Transunion, and Equifax—for it to take affect on all three. This entitles you to a free review of your credit reports. It also forces a business to contact you and verify your information before issuing credit in your name. Fraud alerts last for one year but can be renewed each year.
If you are a verified victim of ID theft or have filed a report with IDTheft.gov then you are eligible for extended fraud alert that lasts for 7 years and has additional benefits.
Monitoring your credit report is crucial. It is always a good idea to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Monitor your credit reports for unauthorized activity. Look for errors and omissions on your reports and respond accordingly. If your personal information has been compromised, you may not even know it without being vigilant. Creditor information could be sent to a PO Box or email address set up by the fraudster keeping you out of loop. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com where you can get one free credit report once a year from each of the credit bureaus once year. If you pull one report every three months, that allows you to pull and monitor a report 3 times a year.
If you need help understanding your credit reports or would like guidance in building or help rebuilding your credit after fraud, Apprisen offers Credit Health Education appointments. Armed with the knowledge of how the credit bureaus collect and maintain your data, you can be sure to take the right steps to spring clean your credit reports even if you have been a victim of fraud.