October is Cyber Security Awareness Month – Here Are Some Tips

Dear Experian,

A bank notified me that an online account was opened using my personal information. I did not open this account and informed the bank of same. They suggested I contact you. What do I do?


Dear TEM,

It can be overwhelming to learn you've been a victim of identity theft. As in your case, crimes involving identity theft and credit fraud are often committed online. You've already taken an important first step — notifying the creditor that the account that was opened was done so fraudulently.

The bank should have provided details for the steps you must take to assist them in their investigation, such as signing a fraud affidavit.

Steps to Take When You're a Victim Of Identity Theft

In addition to working with the bank that contacted you, there are some steps you can take to help protect yourself from further incidents of credit fraud or identity theft:

  • Request an initial security alert be added to your credit reports. The quickest way to do this is by going online to Experian's Fraud Center. Once added, Experian will automatically notify the other two national credit reporting agencies so that they can add an alert as well.
  • Check your credit reports for signs of Fraud. Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three national credit reporting agencies and review them carefully for any sign of credit fraud. As a victim of identity theft, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report. You can request the free copy of your Experian credit report at the same time as you add the alert.
  • Review your credit report carefully for signs of identity theft or fraud. Check for any unfamiliar accounts, charges, inquiries, or personal information, such as an address you've never used. Notify Experian immediately if you see anything that may be fraud-related.
  • Consider filing a police report. Filing a police report or identity theft report with law enforcement gives you a record of the fraud. You may be asked to provide this report to creditors to assist in their investigation of any accounts opened or used fraudulently in your name. And, you will need to provide a copy of this report to Experian should you wish to extend your initial security alert by adding a 7-year victim statement to your credit report.
  • Add an extended fraud alert. Your initial security alert will remain on the report for twelve months. If you determine that the fraud may be ongoing, you may wish to add an extended 7-year alert, or fraud victim statement, to your credit report. To do so, you will need to provide Experian with a copy of your identity theft report.

Both initial security alerts and extended fraud alerts are free.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, so this is a great time to learn more about how you can protect yourself from cyber crimes. Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself from online fraud:

  • Use strong passwords. Never use a password that can be easily guessed, such as the name of a child or pet, your place of birth, or your mother's maiden name. A strong password will have a minimum of eight characters and contain a mix of letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Make sure the website you are using is secure. Double check to make sure the company you are doing business with is using a secure website before entering any personal information online. Look to see that the browser URL begins with "https" rather than "http." The "s" indicates the site is secure.
  • Shop online using a credit card with fraud protection. If online hackers do get your information, you are less likely to suffer personal loss as a result of any fraudulent charges.
  • Don't conduct personal business online while connected via a public Wi-Fi network. Make sure you are using a secure internet connection before engaging in online banking or entering sensitive financial information online.
  • Be aware of the potential for shoulder surfers. Someone looking over your shoulder at a coffee shop or standing behind you in line can easily capture the information they need to commit cyber fraud against you.

Even if you follow every precaution, there's no guarantee you'll never be a victim of cyber fraud. However, being aware of cyber security, frequently checking your credit reports, and carefully monitoring activity on bank and credit card accounts can increase your chances of catching any attempt at cyber fraud quickly and significantly reduce its impact.

Thanks for asking,
The Ask Experian Team

Sign up for helpful tips, special offers and more!
You're signed up!
Our system is undergoing maintenance and will be available again soon.