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Prevention

How to Prevent Identity Theft After a Burglary

Dear Experian,

I returned from two weeks away from my house to find it had been burglarized. Among the missing items are some credit cards. 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.

- ARZ

Dear ARZ,

Your neighbor gave you good advice. If your personal information is compromised, it's always a good idea to contact the credit reporting agencies to request an initial security alert be added to your report.

What is a Security Alert?

A security alert, also called a fraud 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 add an alert with 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.

Once you've added the initial alert, you should:

  • Review your credit reports carefully.

    You will want to 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 company in order to check for suspicious activity.

  • Consider filing a police report.

    If you determine that your information is indeed being used fraudulently, contact your local police department to file an identity theft report. You can then submit that report to Experian and request that a seven year alert be added to your file. You may also include two telephone numbers (day and evening, for example) where lenders may contact you if your identification information is used to apply for credit.

  • Dispute fraud-related information.

    If you do find information on your credit report that is related to fraud, contact the company who is reporting the information immediately to notify them. You should also contact the credit reporting companies to request that the information be disputed. You can dispute information with Experian online, by phone or by mail.

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" through an automated approval process. 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

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