What do you do when your personal information has been compromised? Unfortunately, this is becoming a question we consider more often as online security breaches become more common. However, your personal information can be breached the good old fashioned way just as easy.
In fact, I found myself (Mike), in this situation this week as my vehicle was broken into and my personal documents compromised. As I address this issue, it occurred to me that someone else may be interested in what I found.
In the event that your information is compromised through the commission of a crime, you need to immediately file a police report with your local law enforcement agency. You will need this police report later to avoid fees associated with the credit reporting agencies. Next you need to contact Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reporting agencies. You can apply for fraud alerts or a credit freeze with each agency. An alert will alert you to when your credit is being accessed, a freeze will prevent anyone from establishing credit in your name. I have elected to place a freeze on my credit. In the event that I need to obtain additional credit, I can alert these agencies to my actions and intentions just prior to taking the steps to apply for additional credit.
To contact each agency you can call, go online or use mail. If you use the phone or the online database, you will not be able to avoid paying a fee for the credit freeze, at least I was not. If you use the mail and provide proof that you are the subject of a crime you can avoid this fee. In Ohio this fee is $5 per credit report agency per person.
If you use mail you need to provide the following information:
- Your complete name including any suffix (e.g. JR., Sr., etc)
- Complete address
- Any prior addresses in the past two years
- Social Security Number
- Date of Birth
- Payment, if applicable. Please see each companies' website for specific fees.
- Proof of identification. Please see each companies' website for acceptable forms of identification.
- Remember to send copies and not original documents as you will not get them back!
Here is the contact information for each credit reporting agency:
Mail: Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348
Mail: Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Mail: TransUnion LLC
PO Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
Further, you should contact your local postmaster in person and request that no change of addresses occur without your physical presence in the post office.
Having your personal identifiers stolen is frustrating, but hopefully taking these steps eliminates your risk of a bigger headache of destroyed credit.