Monitoring Your Credit In A Time Of Crisis

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While the coronavirus outbreak has so many of us focused on our physical health, Call Federal is committed to making sure your financial health is protected, too. Previously, we shared several schemes and scams that fraudsters will use take advantage of the panic and ways to avoid them. Here, we want to show you some steps that can be taken proactively by contacting the three major credit bureaus.

Initiate A Fraud Alert

The first option is to have an “initial fraud alert” placed on your credit file. You will have to reach out to one of the three major credit bureaus to do so, but they are compelled by law to notify the other two. With a fraud alert on your file, you must be contacted and your identity confirmed before a lender can issue new credit. These alerts last 90 days, but can be renewed for another three months at the end of each term. You may also choose to receive a copy of your credit report from each of the credit bureaus at that time, which we recommend if you have not done so recently. The links/phone numbers below will get you started on this path.

TransUnion –  Access Online or call 1-800-680-7289
Experian –  Access Online or call 1-888-397-3742
Equifax –  Access Online or call 1-800-525-6285

Place Security Freezes

Alternatively, you may also choose to place a security (or credit) freeze on your credit reports, restricting access to only your existing creditors (and, in some cases, the government). This measure also requires reaching out to the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), but makes it that much more difficult for would-be thieves to open new accounts in your name, as a creditor won’t issue new credit without being able to see your report. Unlike the free fraud alerts, you will be charged a fee for this service. In Virginia, the fee is $10 per credit bureau. You will also be charged to unfreeze your account when/should you choose to do so. The fees do vary state-to-state, so check out the individual bureau pages for other state’s fees.

Upon freezing your reports, you’ll receive a PIN from each bureau. You cannot lift the freeze without this number, so it is essential that it be kept safe. While frozen, you will be unable to open new accounts or take advantage of any opportunities that require a credit check, even applying for a job. In any of these situations, you will have to contact the credit bureaus to lift the security freeze so your credit file can be accessed and a decision made. Be aware that it may take some time to unlock, so it is important to plan ahead. If you decide to pursue this option, use the numbers and/or links below.

TransUnion –  Freeze/unfreeze online or call 1-800-909-8872
Experian –  Freeze/unfreeze online or call 1-888-397-3742
Equifax –  Freeze/unfreeze online or call 1-800-349-9960

Taking an active role in being aware and prepared during this crisis can give you peace of mind while focusing on the health of yourself and your loved ones.

For more information, the Federal Trade Commission is an excellent resource on matters regarding consumer credit. You can access their FAQ on Credit Freezes here.

 

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