If you are a victim of identity theft, you can put a fraud alert on your credit reports, which requires companies to call you to verify your identity when someone tries to get a credit card or loan in your name. In order to set up the alert, you need to contact one of the three credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion); the other two will be notified by the one you contact.
While the fraud alert is effective, there is another action you can take. All three credit bureaus now offer you the opportunity to freeze your credit report. With a security freeze, businesses cannot access your credit files without your authorization, greatly limiting the chances that you will get credit. Of course, that means that thieves will not be able to open accounts in your name. If you decide to use this alternative, be aware that you need to contact all three credit agencies.
Find out more about security freeze laws, from Consumers Union, at http://www.FinancialPrivacyNow.org.
Protect yourself by getting a copy of your credit report from each credit-reporting agency once a year. Additionally, make a copy of the contents of your wallet and keep it in a safe place, in case you ever have to identify you are missing.
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