To combat identity theft in Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union credit reports, consumers have several tools. Two of the most common tools are adding an extended fraud alert to the report, and placing a credit freeze on the report.
Extended Fraud Alert: An extended fraud alert requires potential creditors to contact the consumer by phone (or in any manner required by the consumer) before issuing credit in the consumer's name. If an identity thief attempts to open an account in your name, the creditor is required to contact you first. You can shutdown the identity theft before it happens, and may also be able to catch the thief in the act. Extended Fraud Alerts stay on a consumer's file for seven years, or until the consumer removes it. Extended fraud alerts also require that the consumer reporting agencies remove your name from marketing lists for pre-screened credit offers for five years, unless you request otherwise. Placing a fraud alert on your credit file should not affect a consumer's credit score.
Credit Freeze: Most states have laws that allow consumers to “freeze” a credit report. A credit freeze stops all access to your credit report unless a consumer lifts it. Even if an identity thief has a consumer's name, address, social security number, and date of birth, they will not be able to obtain new loans or credit in the consumer's name. This is because banks, lenders, and businesses require access to the credit report to approve a consumer for credit, loans, goods, and services. The credit freeze stops access to the credit report. A credit freeze should also not affect a consumer's credit score.
To freeze your credit report or place an Extended Fraud Alert on your file, contact the credit bureaus: