Experian, TransUnion and Equifax now offer all U.S. consumers free weekly credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com.
I was a victim of check fraud. I was told I'm entitled to seven years of free fraud alerts as long as I have a police report. Is this true? The bad checks are rolling in now, and I am concerned that they might have opened up credit in our names as well.
There is never a cost to add a fraud alert to your credit report. Your situation is precisely why the system of security alerts and fraud victim statements exists. The role of the alerts is to help people who are identity theft victims stop credit fraud resulting from that identity theft.
How Can I Protect My Credit?
Check fraud does not involve accessing a credit report, so neither a temporary security alert nor a fraud victim statement will stop the check fraud. But, adding a security alert to your credit reports may help protect you from new credit fraud resulting from the theft of your identity if the identity thief attempts to open new credit accounts using your identifying information.
You have the right to add a temporary, initial security alert to your credit report quickly and easily online with Experian's Fraud Center. The initial alert lasts for 12 months and will be seen by anyone accessing your credit report. It lets potential lenders know that your personal information has been compromised and that someone may be trying to apply for credit in your name fraudulently, and it asks them to take extra steps to verify your identity before approving credit in your name.
When you add an alert with Experian, a notice will be sent automatically to TransUnion and Equifax so that they can add alerts to their files as well.
Initial security alerts are intended for people who know or have reason to believe they are at increased risk of credit fraud. For example, they may have lost their wallet or purse, or they may have received a notice that their identifying information was compromised as the result of a computer data breach.
For those individuals, a temporary security alert may be all that is needed. If they find their wallet or purse, or the data is recovered and has not been accessed, they have no need to continue the alert because the threat no longer exists.
If you know you are an identity theft victim and have a police report, you can choose to add a more permanent fraud victim statement to your credit report by submitting a copy of your police report or identity theft report along with your request.
A fraud victim statement lasts seven years, and like an initial security alert, is provided to every business that requests your credit report.
How Do I Dispute Fraudulent Information on My Credit Report?
Once you've added a security alert to your credit report, you should review your credit reports from each of the three credit reporting companies carefully to ensure there are no signs of credit fraud, such as an application for credit that you did not make or a new account that you did not open. If there is information appearing in your credit history that you feel may be related to fraud, you have the right to dispute that information either online with Experian's Dispute Center or by calling the phone number on your credit report and speaking with a fraud representative.
You will also want to contact any company where you think fraud may have occurred so that they can begin their own investigation. The lender may ask you to fill out a fraud affidavit or provide them with a copy of your identity theft report.
Once the lender's investigation is complete, they should contact the credit reporting companies to request that fraud-related information is removed from your credit history.
Thanks for asking.
Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist