Protect yourself from identity theft and identity fraud
Credit reports will include any suspicious activity on your financial accounts. As a result, check your credit report regularly for any discrepancies. You can get a free Experian credit report and can get a free credit report from each of the credit bureaus every 12 months on AnnualCreditReport.
If you suspect your identity has been stolen, you can contact Experian to set up a fraud alert. Experian will notify the other bureaus of the fraud alert.
With fraud alerts, financial services or data security companies normally text or place a phone call to consumers if there is a suspected security breach or if spending on a card or account doesn't match up with your habits or recent location. Don't leave mail in your mailbox as identity thieves may still steal from mailboxes or trash to get your information. In general, it's also helpful to avoid leaving a paper trail of ATM, credit card or retail receipts behind.
Identity thieves can use receipts to help piece together your personal data, so hold on to receipts and throw them away or shred them when you get home.
It's a good idea to limit the number of credit cards you carry in your wallet, so if it's stolen you can minimize the impact. Additionally, don't carry your Social Security card on your person — the theft of a Social Security number is an ID theft's gateway to more financial accounts, and thus must be protected at all costs.
The takeaway? Never take the security of your personal data for granted. Data thieves are out there, ready to strike. Chances are, they'll target those consumers deemed to be most unprepared and most vulnerable because that's where the financial opportunity lies for crooks. Consequently, it's up to you to stop identity theft from occurring—one strong identity theft protection step at a time.
Today it’s more important than ever to be vigilant and careful about your personal information.
Identity thieves use the Dark Web to buy personal data to commit fraud. Protect yourself today with Dark Web Surveillance and a full suite of identity protection services. Our Editorial Policies: The information contained in Ask Experian is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice.
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While maintained for your information, archived posts may not reflect current Experian policy. The Ask Experian team cannot respond to each question individually. Ask them to close or freeze the accounts. Change logins, passwords, and PIN numbers for your accounts. Place a free fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus a call to one will alert all three and get your credit reports.
Go to annualcreditreport. You may choose to report the identity theft to your local police department. Ask them to issue a police report of identity theft. Give them as much information on the theft as possible. One way to do this is to provide copies of your credit reports showing the items related to identity theft black out other items. Ask for a copy of your police report. You may need to give copies to creditors and the credit bureaus.
At home: Keep financial records, Social Security, and Medicare cards in a safe place. Shred papers with personal or medical information. Retrieve mail from your mailbox as soon as you can. As you do business: Only give your Social Security number if you have to. You may want to pull each of your credit reports again at least once over the course of the next year to check for any continued fraudulent activity. A credit freeze prevents the credit reporting agencies from releasing your credit report to new creditors.
Placing a freeze on your report is free.
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For the strongest defense against identity theft, McClary recommends placing both a fraud alert and credit freeze on your report. Losing track of your PIN may delay or hinder your ability to unfreeze your credit, so make sure to keep it in a safe place while the freeze is active. There is no time limit to a freeze; it will remain until you decide to lift it, which you may do temporarily or permanently.
You should have a copy on hand if you decide to file a police report and additional copies to provide to your creditors.
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You may also choose to report the crime to the police in the location where the crime s occurred. Securing a police report can help protect you from further damages resulting from the theft. The FTC provides a memo to give to local law enforcement , which stresses the importance of police reports for consumer victims in these types of fraud cases. Make sure the police report lists all accounts affected by the fraud and be prepared to provide as much documented information as possible, along with your Identity Theft Report.
After filing the report, remember to request a copy for your own records. Keep the phone number of your police investigator handy on a contact sheet for future reference. The FTC has a sample letter template that you can use to draft your request. Along with the letter, include a copy of your Identity Theft Report and identifying information, along with details about which information is fraudulent.
Continue to keep a close eye on your credit report, though, in case any additional fraudulent accounts are added later.