This past week, my lawyer faxed over a bunch of personal information, including my social security number. All of my personal details were potentially made public in a simple fax. He assured me that the information was encrypted, but I wasn’t taking his word for it.
It got me thinking that I should protect my credit by requesting a fraud alert to be placed on each of my credit reports.
A fraud alert can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you. You may place a fraud alert in your file by calling just one of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies. As soon as that agency processes your fraud alert, it will notify the other two, which then also must place fraud alerts in your file.
- Equifax: 1-877-576-5734; www.alerts.equifax.com
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com/fraud
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com
An initial fraud alert stays in your file for at least 90 days. An extended alert stays in your file for seven years. To place either of these alerts, a consumer credit reporting company will require you to provide appropriate proof of your identity, which may include your Social Security number.
I took it one step further and requested a credit report from each of the credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.
I know you’ve seen commercials that claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores,” or “free credit monitoring”. In most cases, the “free” product comes with strings attached.
Back in the day, you had to request a free report via regular ol’ snail mail. Nowadays, you can do this online. The credit bureaus have consolidated the process to make it much easier.
Yet, the thought of providing my social security number online doesn’t make me feel secure. Check out this link. It gives you the option to request your reports online, over the phone, or via mail. https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/order.