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Q&A: What should I do if I suspect identity theft?

David John Marotta
by David John Marotta, NAPFA (@MarottaOnMoney)

Identity theft hits about 7 percent of households each year. If you receive any notice that someone has applied for something and you did not originate the application, you may be victim of an attempted identity theft.

READ: What should I do if I'm a victim of identity theft?

The first step is to call the credit reporting companies and add a fraud alert to your credit information. Start by calling Equifax at 1-800-203-7843. Follow the prompts to have a fraud alert added to your credit information. If you are married, call separately for your spouse. They will ask you for your Social Security number, and they will offer to sell you credit monitoring services. Putting a fraud alert on is what’s important.

A fraud alert notifies potential credit grantors to verify your identification before extending credit in your name. This helps prevent your personal information being misused for the next 90 days. When you place a fraud alert with one credit bureau, they will notify the other two bureaus. For the next two years, your name will be removed from all preapproved credit and insurance offers.

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At the end of 90 days, you can reactivate the fraud alert for an additional 90 days. If you can provide proof you have been the victim of fraud, you can put an extended fraud alert that will last for seven years.

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David John Marotta, CFP, AIF, is president of Marotta Wealth Management, Inc. Marotta is a member of the National Association of Personal Finance Advisors (NAPFA), a fee-only professional association and a Dimespring knowledge partner.