How does Experian help victims of identity theft?
There are a number of ways that Experian works to help victims of fraud and identity theft, including products and services to help consumers protect their credit if they've had their personal information compromised.
Identity thieves may obtain valuable personal information by stealing your purse or wallet, going through your mail, breaching a computer system or tricking you into providing personal information through a false email (phishing). While Experian may not be able to prevent criminals from stealing your identity, we can help you prevent use of your stolen identity to open new accounts and can help you recover from fraud that results from identity theft.
How Experian Works to Help Prevent Credit Fraud
- Checking for inconsistencies: When a lender requests a credit report as a result of an application for credit, Experian automatically checks the information for warning signs of fraud, such as an address or Social Security number that doesn't match the consumer's existing records.
- Identifying potential fraud activity: Experian also uses a national fraud database that connects known fraud instances and notifies lenders of potential fraud before it occurs.
How Experian Helps Victims of Identity Theft
Experian offers the following options and assistance to help consumers recover from credit fraud and identity theft:
- Fraud alerts: There are several fraud alerts, or security alerts, available for consumers to add to their credit reports. When you request a fraud alert, Experian will automatically share your request with the other two major consumer credit reporting agencies.
- Initial alert: Consumers who are aware that their information may have been compromised, because a wallet was stolen or they received a security breach notice, may wish to add an initial security alert to their credit report. An initial alert lasts for one year and notifies anyone receiving the report that someone may be trying to apply for credit fraudulently and asks the lender to verify ID or call the consumer.
- Extended alert or seven-year victim statement: If you've been a victim of credit fraud, Experian recommends that you file a police report or identity theft report with law enforcement. You can then submit a copy of that report to Experian. Once received, Experian can add a fraud alert notifying lenders that you have been a victim of credit fraud. This alert remains on the report for seven years and asks lenders to contact you at the number you provide if someone applies for credit in your name.
- Military alert: Members of the armed forces on active duty can add an active-duty alert to their credit report to help protect themselves from fraud and identity theft while deployed overseas.
- Fraud dispute: If you identify items on your credit report that are related to identity theft, we will help you dispute the fraudulent information. Once you file an identity theft report, you can send a copy of the report to Experian so that we can begin blocking any fraudulent accounts.
- Extra free reports: Experian provides additional free credit reports to fraud victims.
- Credit file freeze: In some instances, a consumer may feel that it is in their best interest to freeze their credit report. Keep in mind that having a credit freeze means you will need to lift the freeze prior to applying for new credit. Like fraud alerts, credit freezes are free of charge.
Fraud Alert or Credit Freeze?
Many people question whether a security alert or a credit freeze is right for them. Unlike a fraud alert or victim statement, a security freeze prohibits potential new creditors from accessing your credit history at all, unless you first lift the freeze or obtain a special one-time use PIN that you can provide to the specific lender you are applying with.
While a security freeze might be necessary in some instances, there are drawbacks. Depending on your experience with fraud, a fraud alert might be the wiser course of action. A fraud alert may cause a slight delay while your identity is verified, but once that's handled an alert will not prevent the lender from viewing your credit report and granting credit. With a credit freeze, you'd have to contact each bureau to lift the freeze or provide a PIN before your lender can check your credit, then reapply it once the process is done with.
Credit Monitoring Service
Experian offers Experian IdentityWorks?, a credit monitoring service for those who want to be proactive about checking their credit reports for signs of credit fraud. IDnotify™ is now free to active duty military service members.
In addition, we're aware that various businesses have experienced security breaches in recent years. One important way Experian works to mitigate their impact on consumers is by providing credit monitoring for those who may have had information compromised as a result of a breech.
Thanks for asking,
Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist
This question came from a recent Periscope session we hosted.