Identity theft is rampant. Identity thieves are more sophisticated than ever on how to steal our identities and use them for their own gain.
Luckily, victims of identity theft have additional protections under the FCRA.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you can request to add an initial or extended fraud alert on your Equifax, Experian or Trans Union credit file. The FCRA requires that when you contact either Equifax, Experian or Trans Union regarding a fraud alert, the CRA that received your request must also notify the other two CRAs that you requested a fraud alert. Therefore, you only need to contact one out of the Big Three CRAs to add a fraud alert to all three of your credit files. But you can always contact all three if you want to make sure all of them place a fraud alert on your file.
An initial fraud alert will stay on your credit file for 90 days from the date of the request. To request an initial fraud alert you must assert “in good faith” a suspicion that you have been or are about to become a victim of identity theft, and provide appropriate proof of your identity. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report, in addition to the free annual credit report, once an initial fraud alert has been placed on your credit file.
An extended fraud alert will stay on your credit file for 7 years and remove your name from any lists prepared by the CRAs for promotional inquiries for a period of 5 years from the date of the request. To request an extended fraud alert you must submit an identity theft report (such as a police report) and appropriate proof of your identity. You are entitled to two free copies of your credit report during the 12-month period beginning on the date the extended fraud alert was included in your credit file, in addition to the free annual credit report.
The purpose of these fraud alerts is to prevent identity theft. But an identity thief may still be able to open accounts and obtain services using your identity despite these fraud alerts.
If, after reviewing your credit report, you find information resulting from identity theft you should dispute this information to the CRA.
Victims of identity theft need to include additional information and documents with their dispute. After reviewing your credit report, your dispute letter and enclosures need to include the following.
Within 4 business days of the CRA’s receipt of your dispute, the CRA is required to block (delete) the disputed information from your credit file. The CRA must “promptly” notify the furnisher of the information (such as the bank or collection agency) that the information you disputed may be the result of identity theft, that an identity theft report has been filed, that a block of the information has been requested, and the effective dates of the block. The CRA (Equifax, Experian or Trans Union) must also tell the other two CRAs the information it has blocked in your credit file.
The CRA must provide you with the results of your dispute.
A CRA is able to decline or rescind a block of disputed information. But the CRA must provide you with notice of its decision and comply with other requirements of the FCRA. Therefore, even if you receive this notice, the CRA may have improperly declined or rescinded the block of information, and you may have a claim against the CRA.
Finally, any consumer can request a security freeze (you may have to pay a fee) be placed on their credit file. You will need to request a security freeze and possibly pay a fee to each Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. A security freeze prevents creditors from obtaining your credit file which usually prevents accounts being opened in your name, and can deter identity theft. But a security freeze will also prevent you from opening any new accounts, so you should not request a security freeze if you plan on requesting credit or other services in the near future where your credit file will be needed to determine eligibility.
If you are the victim of identity theft, please contact us for a free consultation.