Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, a crook gets through the defenses and before you know it, you’re the victim of fraud. When it happens, fraud can impact every aspect of your life – not just your finances.
Fraud takes many forms – from credit card theft and passing fake checks to misuse of your Social Security number or personal information, and even wrongful use of your health insurance. The types of fraud and ways in which it’s perpetrated get more complicated every year, and so do the steps you may need to take to resolve it.
One of the most important first steps you can take is to contact the credit bureaus and ask for a fraud alert to be placed on your account. It’s important to understand these fraud alert facts about what an alert can – and can’t – do for you.
A fraud alert:
- Stays in effect for 90 days.
- Allows you to alert all three major credit bureaus by contacting just one.
- Lets potential credit issuers know that they need to verify an application for credit in your name before issuing new credit.
- Allows you to obtain a free credit report under federal law. This is in addition to your annual free credit report.
- Helps demonstrate that you’ve taken steps to report fraud and prevent further fraud in case a creditor issues new credit to a fraudster after you’ve already initiated the alert.
A fraud alert does not:
- Guarantee fraud won’t happen to you again.
- Guarantee you will be contacted by creditors before they open a new account in your name, even though they are supposed to do exactly that when made aware of the alert.
- Alert you to when someone tries to use credit in your name.
- Affect your credit score.
- Last forever.
- Provide the kind of additional help you might receive from a fraud resolution product.
The best way to prevent fraud is to always be vigilant. Check your credit report regularly (credit monitoring can help), and always follow identity theft protection practices.