Wittman: Fraud alert helps protect your creditby Romi Carrell Wittman on Feb. 23, 2009, under Edge
I try to take precautions to protect my personal info. Whenever I mail bills, I do so from a secured location such as a lockbox. I use gel ink when I write checks because it is is harder than regular ink for thieves to soak off. I don’t carry my Social Security number on me, or those of my family. When I pay bills online, I make sure the site I’m on is a secure one. I shred personal documents. I’ve also opted out of any unsolicited credit card offers.
But despite all precautions, I may have had my Social Security number swiped.
My brother called me last week to report that his truck had been broken into. I immediately thought of all of the things he should do to protect his identity, when he dropped this little bombshell on me. His laptop was among the items stolen and it had my Social Security number on it. He had it listed in some beneficiary documents.
Though his laptop was password protected, it could still be possible for someone to crack it and find the personal data, such as my social.
I immediately contacted TransUnion, one of the three major credit bureaus (transunion.com) and had them put a 90-day fraud alert on me and my pertinent info. As a bonus, they will contact the other two credit bureaus (Experian.com, Equifax.com) to place a fraud alert there, too.
The fraud alert tells the credit bureaus to contact me should anyone try to obtain credit in my name. Thus, I’ll be alerted should someone try to monkey around with my credit. On the downside, should I apply for credit, the process could be slowed down somewhat.
If after 90 days I feel I need to “re-up” the fraud alert, I can do so. It’s a simple, free way to give me a little peace of mind.
But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do my homework. Everyone should get a copy of their credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. Go to annualcreditreport.com. It’s the only Web site – outside of the credit bureaus – authorized to fill orders for free credit reports. You’ll have to pay extra to each credit bureau to get your credit score.
If you’d like to opt-out of those annoying pre-approved credit offers, go to Optout.com.
For more identity theft information, go to the FTC’s Web site at consumer.gov/idtheft/.
Romi Carrell Wittman is a writer and the communication services director for Trico Electric Cooperative. E-mail: email@example.com.