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Protect credit with freeze or fraud alert?

4 steps to recover from credit card fraud
Alert the credit bureaus

Alert the credit bureaus

It's smart to contact the three major credit-reporting bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- after you discover credit card fraud.

The agencies can put a fraud alert on your credit file, which signals to lenders that you may have been a victim of fraud, according to the Equifax website.

That way, a lender will know to take extra steps to verify your request for new credit, extension of credit on an existing account or an additional credit card.

You can place a fraud alert on your credit report for 90 days or seven years. And it's free in both cases. For an extended fraud alert, you will need to submit an identity theft report from the police.

A stronger, but more inconvenient, precaution is placing a credit freeze on your file if you're worried that credit card fraud could turn into outright identity fraud, which is much more severe to your personal finances.

A credit freeze keeps new creditors from pulling your credit report or score, or reporting information about you to the credit bureaus. Only lenders that have an existing relationship with you can get your report and report new information to the bureaus. Placing a freeze is usually free for identity theft victims, but nonvictims typically have to pay. Fees vary by state.

 

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