Online credit monitoring

Question

As a veteran, I am concerned about my identity being stolen because of the recent theft of the records from the VA. What's the best online method for monitoring by credit report?

- Jim

Answer

This question was answered on May 24, 2006. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

How ironic that as we approach Memorial Day, 26.5 million citizens that have served our country are burdened with the potential of mass identity theft.

The recent theft of a laptop from the home of a data analyst that worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs is what has caused the concern.

The employee violated procedure and took home a laptop that contained the SSN, date of birth, address and other vital personal information for veterans and some of their spouses This could amount to one of the biggest single thefts of personal information on record, but there is a chance that the thief has no idea what is on the laptop (as of this writing, the employee is not suspected of any intentional wrongdoings).

Of course, with all of the media attention on this case, the likelihood of the thief not knowing what they have in their possession diminishes.

The instances of personal information in large databases being compromised is continuing to grow, so whether you are a veteran or not, taking steps to monitor your credit report is a good idea.

There are a number of services that will provide you information on a regular basis for a fee, but there are several ways to get your credit report for free.

Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) consumers can request and obtain a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian & Trans Union).

An easy (and secure) way to request a report from all three credit bureaus is available at www.annualcreditreport.com, which was created by the companies to help comply with the FACT Act or you can request your credit report by phone at 877-322-8228.

Checking your credit record once a year, however, may not be often enough especially if you suspect that your personal information has been compromised, so you may not want to request all three at once.

If you check with one of the three reporting companies every four months, you can continue to monitor your records for free 3 times a year since they all report major changes to each other.

Here is the contact information for each of the companies:

Equifax

800 685-1111

www.equifax.com

Experian

888 322 5583

www.experian.com

Trans Union

800 888-4213

www.transunion.com

If you want even more frequent reporting, all three companies offer fee based reporting systems (some with special offers for veterans) that include e-mail alerts within 24 hours when key changes occur to your credit report at any of the 3 reporting agencies

Some also offer "Identity Fraud Expense Coverage", but don't confuse that with any real help in regaining control of your stolen identity Anyone that has ever been a victim of identity theft will tell you that the amount of time it takes to get things cleared up is mind boggling These types of plans can help cover the expenses, but not the time so make sure you understand what you are buying.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on May 24, 2006