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Placing fraud alert on credit file an identity theft prevention tool


Persons who think they have been a victim of identity theft should have a fraud alert placed on their credit file with each of the three national consumer reporting agencies.


"It is an easy process that can be done by telephone. You only have to call one of them and that agency will contact the other two," said Janet LaFon, family financial education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.


An initial alert is appropriate if a wallet has been stolen or if a person has been taken in by a phishing scam.


"When you place an initial fraud alert on your credit report, you're entitled to order one free credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies," said LaFon.


An extended alert stays on a person's credit report for seven years. However, an identity theft report must be submitted before an extended alert will be set up. According to LaFon, a copy of a theft report needs to be filed with a federal, state or local law enforcement agency.


To place either of these alerts on a person's credit report, a person must provide appropriate proof of their identity. That may include Social Security number, name, address and other personal information requested by the consumer reporting company.


"When a business sees the alert on your credit report, they must verify your identity before issuing you credit. As part of this verification process, the business may try to contact you directly. This may cause some delays if you're trying to obtain credit," said LaFon.


The three national consumer reporting agencies are: Equifax, 1-800-525-6285; Experian, 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); and TransUnion, 1-800-680-7289.


For more information, visit the Federal Trade Commission's identity theft site. For this or other financial issues, you can also contact your local University of Missouri Extension office.


Source: Janet LaFon, family financial education specialist, Jasper County, University of Missouri Extension, 417-358-2158


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Last update: Monday, September 12, 2011