Tips to Protect Your Credit!

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Protect Your Credit!

You see the headlines, you watch the news Identity Theft happens to OTHER people right?  Wrong!  Identify theft can happen to you or me today, tomorrow or at any time.  I don’t mean to scare you but when you least expect it and especially during the upcoming Holiday Season we are all walking around with big targets on our backs.

I’ve always worked in finance but it was not until recently that I’ve started to work in consumer finance and I’ve come to realize we are NOT as safe as we think we are as we go about out business.  We need to take an ACTIVE roll in how we monitor and protect our credit and our credit score.  Our credit  is more important then ever, not just to get loans or credit but even prospective employers are pulling our credit reports to get a full picture of us when we apply for a job.

The other day at work I received a call, it was a call about a person applying for credit but as a credit analyst I had to take certain steps before the credit application was approved.  This person wisely had a FRAUD ALERT on his credit file.  What is a Fraud Alert?   It is an alert on your credit file that requires potential lenders and banks to take extra steps to protect YOU.  You can specify that you require someone to contact you BEFORE any new credit accounts are open or credit lines increased.  This person had this on his file and I contacted him at the number specified in his credit file.  He informed me that not only was he not applying for credit he had also received a similar call over the weekend from another major retailer.  This man was being attacked and some criminals were trying to buy lots of merchandise using his good credit!    Each financial institution will then put in place their own procedures for when an application comes in as fraudulent but the important bit of information that I want to share with you today is that because of this alert two different instances of potential fraud were STOPPED.

There are 3 types of Fraud Alerts that you can set.

Initial Fraud Alert. This is if you are concerned about the possibility of becoming a victim of fraud or identity theft. It generally is good for 90 days.

Extended Fraud Alert. This is what you file if you are a victim of fraud or identity theft. This will stay on your credit report for seven years.

Active Duty Military Alert.  This alert available if you are on active military duty . The active duty alert is similar to an initial fraud alert except that it lasts 12 months and your name is removed from preapproved firm offers of credit or insurance (prescreening) for 2 years.

Where can you get more information and learn about placing a fraud alert on your credit file?  At any of the three or all three credit reporting agencies.  You do not have to pay anyone anything to do this for you.

Equifax:  http://www.equifax.com/answers/set-fraud-alerts/en_cp

Experian:  http://www.experian.com/credit-education/victim-assistance.html

Transunion:  http://www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes/fraud-alerts.page

I am in no way trying to be chicken little, but I did feel compelled to share this information with you so that you can have the tools you need to defend your hard earned reputation.   Now this will mean that if you do go open new lines of credit the whole application process will take a bit longer but please keep in mind its all to take care of you.  And one more thing, if a sweet sounding gal comes on the phone and tells you she needs to verify your identity by asking you some questions, don’t get annoyed, I’m just doing my job to PROTECT YOU ☺. ~ Princess T


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