You have the right to place a fraud alert on your credit report. In addition to that, you can actually freeze your credit report
Anyone who has been the victim of identity theft may request the three major credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on their credit reports. Fraud alerts are designed to alert you when someone applies for credit in your name. Additionally, it signals creditors to contact you for authorization to, or not to, issue that credit. If you can believe it, those same creditors are not required to abide by or even review the alert.
A credit freeze can take the process one step further. With a credit freeze, no one can open any form of credit in your name. Your credit file is off limits to potential lenders, insurers and even potential employers. Here’s how it works.
When you apply for a loan, credit card or other personal credit, the company issuing credit usually will contact one of the three credit reporting agencies to request your credit file.
If you have a freeze on your account, the company will be told that it cannot see your credit file due to the freeze. You should tell the credit issuer at the time you request their service that your account is frozen, and that you have the ability to temporarily lift the freeze in order for them to review your history. The three credit bureaus assign a personal identification number to you when you freeze your report. Using this PIN number, you can lift the freeze whenever necessary.
With a credit freeze, a criminal can have your name, birthday and Social Security number — but it won’t matter. No credit will be issued.
If you wish to freeze a credit report, you must contact each of the three credit reporting agencies. For the majority of states, there is no cost if you are a victim of identity theft, as long as you have a report from either the police or law enforcement agency. If you have not been a victim of identity theft in California (for example), you must pay $10 to freeze each credit report, or a total of $30 to freeze your files at the three credit bureaus.
None of the three bureaus charge to permanently lift the freeze, but there are fees for a temporary lift — even for identity theft victims.
Depending on your state of residence, each agency has a different fee for freezing or lifting your credit file freeze. In addition, each agency has a different procedure for consumers to freeze their files. Here’s a chart explaining what you need to send each credit reporting agency to freeze your credit report: Information you’ll need to freeze your credit files
|Credit reporting agencies||Mailing address||Required information|
|Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
|Experian Security Freeze
P. O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
|Trans Union Security Freeze
P. O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
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The Identity Theft Assumptions Deterrence Act, passed in 1998 closes vital gaps against identity theft. This law offers the strongest protection ever against this type of crime. It also redefines the theft of personal information as a crime.
In the past. consumers were left to repair damaged credit reports and the credit card companies were considered the victims of identity theft. This law allows victims of idenity theft to seek compensation for “identifiable losses” as well as expenses related to clearing their name and credit history. Unlike previous federal legislation, this identity theft law allows law enforcement officials to prosecute criminals who steal personal information.
“The Identity Theft and Associations Deterrence Act” includes the following measures to protect you and other consumers:
- Making identity theft across state lines a crime with a punishment of a fine and imprisonment of up to 15 years.
- Allowing restitution to the victim.
- Increasing levels of jail time, depending on how many victims the criminal defrauds.
- Requiring the U.S. Secret Service to keep statistics on the identity theft cases they handle and which are reported to them by state and local authorities, and by financial institutions.
If you have been a victim of identity theft, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission’s complaint center by calling (202) FTC-HELP or sending an email from their website at http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.htm. Or, you can write to: Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, CRC-240, Washington, D.C. 20580.