Victims of identity theft should work with one of the major credit bureaus, according to the Internal Revenue Service in their Security Awareness Tax Tip Number Six, released yesterday. The agency explains that one of the three major credit bureaus can place a fraud alert on your credit account. The alert makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open bank accounts or other financial accounts in your name. It also helps prevent fraudulent tax refunds from being directed into bank accounts that identity thieves might have created in your name.
You only need to contact one of the major credit bureaus to ask for a fraud alert, according to the IRS, as the bureau you contact must notify the other bureaus of the alert. You will also receive a letter from each credit bureau confirming that they have placed the fraud alert on your account. The IRS notes that the fraud alert is free, lasts for 90 days, and can also be renewed.
There are three types of fraud alerts you can request. The Initial Fraud Alert is used when people are concerned about identity theft, but are not victims. The alert protects your credit from unverified access for at least ninety days. The IRS says this alert is often used if your wallet, Social Security card, or other account information are lost or stolen.
If you are a victim of identity theft, the Extended Fraud Alert protects your credit for seven years. Members of the military can also request the Active Duty Military alert while they are deployed, which lasts for one year.
The IRS also encourages consumers to get their free credit report, to make sure identity thieves have not opened additional accounts. You can call 877-322-8228, or navigate to annualcreditreport.com, or click here, to check for your free credit report.
If stronger protection is desired, a credit freeze can also be placed on your account but there may be a fee for the freeze, which varies by state. The credit freeze, also called a security freeze, restricts access to your credit report and makes it more complex for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. The freeze must be requested from each credit bureau.
However, if you need to make your credit report available to potential creditors, mortgage lenders, or possible employers, the freeze must be temporarily lifted. The IRS says there is also a fee for requesting the freeze to be lifted, and you will also need to provide the PIN number from your initial freeze confirmation.
The IRS Tax Security Tips are published weekly through tax season to help people protect their personal and financial data online.
Click here to visit the Equifax Credit Bureau website.
Click here to visit the Experian Credit Bureau website.
Click here to visit the Transunion Credit Bureau website.
Click here to visit the IRS website.