More than ever, identity theft is among us with today’s heavy reliance on the internet. When it comes to credit repair, certainly the last thing you want to happen is that your identity be stolen right in the middle of the process. Or maybe you had your identity stolen and that’s when you started having trouble dealing with your credit repair. Identity theft surely is a very stressful thing and beyond the financial consequences, it’s a disruption we don’t want to have happen in our lives.
Fortunately, there is such a thing as a “fraud alert”. A fraud alert is something that sticks to your credit report and that notifies anyone looking at your credit report that some information has been put in danger. You have the option to inform the credit bureau yourself of any alerts you want made on your credit reports or comments for free. But a more efficient way of handling this matter may be to let a credit alert company handle this for a small fee.
Credit Alerts can be very helpful and practical. For instance, if it’s your social security number was possibly fraudulently used, because maybe you made the questionable choice of buying someone else’s credit history for example (see our article on this topic), you could place an alert to incite further verification on any application you make from now on.
Such warning usually lasts for 90 days, but you can choose to get an extended one when there’s really no doubt and the verdict has been that you’ve been a victim of identity theft. This extended version will stay active for seven years and cover you while you take care of your credit repair.
How to do it
The easiest way to set up a credit alert is to contact your credit bureau and simply make your request there. Generally, if you only contact TransUnion on this matter for instance, because they will report it to the two other bureaus as well. Some bureaus even offer to do this directly online. I’m very particular about my credit so I would prefer to contact all three credit bureaus directly.
It's not perfect
Of course, no protection is perfect and identity theft could still take place after the expiration of the alert you placed. Identity thefts resort to all kinds of tricks to getting something out of you, including subscribing to utilities in your name, so keep that in mind. Hopefully, your fraud alert can be put to good use by whatever business that sees it (we all have a responsibility in making things happen after all), but it can still happen that someone neglects to do the right verification, allowing the identity theft to happen more easily.
Downsides and alternatives
Perhaps the only downside to a fraud alert is that you could encounter delay for certain credit request because of the added verification process that will be made before granting you anything credit related. This is added security measure is for your own good though and to prevent identity theft from happening there could be some very small inconveniences to keep in mind. If you want something that definitely needs permission on your part for anything to happen on your credit activities, there is also something called a “security freeze”. In that case you're the one that has the security key for the opening of any account. While in credit repair this can be very useful because it’s very restrictive.
And finally, don't forget to keep up good habits like getting a regular credit report, either free or through a subscription, as well as verifying your credit report information. This is a good way to stay proactive to an malicious events on your credit report in hopes of stopping the abuse before it gains momentum.