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One Step Ahead
January 9, 2007, Volume 53, No. 17
One Step Ahead

Another tip in a series provided by the Offices of Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy.

Worried About Identity Theft? Ways to Monitor Your Credit Report

Most identity theft involves abuses of credit. Identity thieves may use your data to open up new credit card accounts or use your existing account to charge purchases for themselves. One of the best protective measures is to keep a close watch on—or actually control—your credit report. You can do this in a variety of ways:

Credit Freeze. The best preventative measure is to put a freeze on your credit file, as allowed by Pennsylvania law beginning January 1, 2007. A credit freeze effectively prevents anyone else from getting credit in your name. It also, however, prevents you from getting instant credit, for example, when you are offered a discount for opening a credit card on the spot. A credit freeze costs $10, and an additional $10 to lift the freeze when you want to apply for credit or a loan.

Fraud Alerts. You can also place a fraud alert on your credit report to let potential lenders know that they should verify that it is actually you applying for credit before extending credit. There are two types of fraud alerts: a 90-day alert and an extended fraud alert, which stays on your credit report for seven years (you must provide an identity theft report to qualify for a seven year alert). 

Credit Monitoring.  Each of the three credit reporting agencies sells a credit monitoring service. For about $100 annually, this service will let you know when there is new activity on your credit report, such as a new account, a closed account, an extension on credit line, and so on. The information comes to you when it is relevant, rather than you having to check your credit report yourself.

Free Credit Report.  If you don’t want to spend money to stay on top of what is happening to your credit report, federal law requires each of the three credit bureaus to provide you a free credit report on request each year. See www.annualcreditreport.com to exercise this right. This puts more of an onus on you to do the work to get the information, but it is free and an important, minimum step to detect identity theft.

For more information on ID theft, please visit www.consumer.gov/idtheft.


For additional tips, see the One Step Ahead link on the Information Security website: www.upenn.edu/computing/security/.


Almanac - January 9, 2007, Volume 53, No. 17