Our vehicle was broken into and confidential identity information might have been accessed. Does this warrant obtaining a security freeze? If so, how long can I expect for it to take place?
You might not have sufficient cause to have a security freeze placed on your credit report yet, but you certainly have reason to add an initial security alert to your report.
You can add an initial security alert at http://www.experian.com/ or by calling 1 888 EXPERIAN (1 888 397 3742) and selecting the fraud option. The alert tells lenders you have reason to believe you are at risk of fraud or identity theft and to take steps to verify your identity before granting credit in your name.
You can request a free copy of your credit report when you have it added. If there is no sign of fraud, you may not need to take any further action and the security alert will be deleted automatically.
If you do find signs of fraud in the report or discover you are being victimized in ways that don’t appear on your credit report, you can add an extended security alert after filing a police report. You might already have done so as a result of the vehicle break-in.
The extended alert says you are a victim of fraud. It requests that lenders contact you before granting credit in your name. You can provide two telephone numbers for lenders to call. It will be deleted automatically after seven years.
You can request that either type of alert be removed at any time by writing to Experian and providing proof of your identity with the request.
Fraud alerts provide substantial protection for fraud victims while enabling them to remain part of the credit marketplace. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) strengthened the alerts by requiring lenders to respond to them in a reasonable manner.
In extreme fraud cases, it can make sense to freeze your credit file. Doing so is free for victims. When you freeze your credit file, you essentially remove yourself from the credit marketplace. You must unfreeze your credit file each time you apply for credit. Today, that process is less cumbersome and can typically be done via the Internet or by telephone in a matter of minutes. Before freezing your credit report, it is important to understand all of the instances when your credit report may be used to help you obtain services, such as buying a cellular telephone or obtaining utility services. Managing a frozen credit report takes a serious commitment on your part.
You might also consider subscribing to a credit monitoring service such as Experian’s ProtectMyID.com. Doing so will alert you to any new activity in your credit report. The service also scans the Internet and other records and will alert you to any unusual or new activity beyond just your credit report, enabling you to respond rapidly to any threats.
Thanks for asking.
- The “Ask Experian” team