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Topics addressed on May 9, 2012:
Protecting yourself from identity theft after a burglary
I returned from two weeks away from my house to find it had been burglarized. Among the missing items are some credit cards, and I have notified the card issuers. However, my Social Security number appears on an ID (with no other identifying information but my name and address) that appears to have been taken. What steps should I take to protect my credit? A neighbor advised me to ask you to request an alert.
Your neighbor gave you good advice. It’s a good idea to contact the credit reporting agencies to request a 90 day initial security alert be added to your file.
A security alert tells lenders that your identification information might have been compromised and asks them to take extra precautions before approving any requests for new credit.
When you contact any one of the three national credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, or Trans Union — your request is automatically shared with the other two credit reporting companies.
After adding the initial alert, monitor activity on all three reports in order to determine if there is any fraudulent activity. You can request a free copy of your report from each in order to check for suspicious activity.
If you determine that your information is indeed being used fraudulently, you should file a police report. With a police report Experian can add a 7 year alert to your file. You may also add up to two telephone numbers (day and evening, for example) where lenders may contact you if your identification is used to apply for credit.
Keep in mind that while a fraud alert can help prevent your stolen identity from being used, the alert could slow your ability to obtain credit. A fraud alert may also prevent you from getting “instant credit” because the automated approval process cannot be completed. You may be asked to submit a full application for manual review, so that the lender can take steps to verify that the person applying is, in fact, you.
Major purchases such as buying a home or a car should not be affected, as long as you can provide the lender with proof of your identity.
Thanks for asking.
- The "Ask Experian" team