Crime Prevention Safety Tools and Topics
These days, identity theft is unfortunately far too common. Often, victims aren’t even aware that their identity has been stolen until they receive a late notice or collection notice sometimes years after a fraudulent account was opened and used with their information. Early detection in most instances is key to combating this crime.
Did you know that Federal law requires each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to provide consumers with a free credit report every 12 months? The catch is that you must request these reports. To do this, simply go to www.annualcreditreport.com from a secure internet connection – do not use free public Wi-Fi for this. Be sure to review any creditors listed in your reports. One tip to use to ensure better surveillance of your credit is to stagger your requests for these reports. For example, get the report from Equifax in January, then Experian in May, and then TransUnion in September. This way you are not just checking in once a year.
Although, the credit bureaus are required to provide your credit report once a year, they are not required to provide your credit score for free and will attempt to charge you for that at the time of your report request. However, most, if not all, banks and credit card companies will give you access to your credit score, which is updated monthly. You should check these monthly and from all companies that offer it (since they are often updated on different dates and use different credit bureaus). If you notice any dramatic decreases in your score that you were not expecting, further research should be conducted. Dramatic sudden decreases in your score could indicate a new inquiry, a new line of credit or a missed payment, perhaps on an account you did not even know someone opened using your information.
Be proactive about your credit health to help identify and dispute fraudulent accounts as well as preserve your credit score. Regularly monitoring your reports and scores will help to lessen your chance of suffering the devastating impacts of having your identity stolen.
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