How can I find out if my credit has been compromised?

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Q. How can I find out if my credit has been compromised?
— Concerned

A. There have been so many credit breaches that it can be hard to keep up.

If you hear about a data breach that you could have been involved with, say, because you do business with a company that’s announced a hack, there are several steps to take.

First, companies with breaches often create an online portal so you can find out of your personal information or credit card number was stolen.

If it is, take advantage of any offers for free programs to monitor your credit.

Next, it’s time to check your credit reports. You can do this for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Look for unusual activity and if you see something, notify the credit bureaus.

As an extra safety step, put a security freeze on your credit reports. This stops someone else from opening new credit in your name. If you need to apply for credit, you can always ask the bureaus to temporarily unlock your reports.

You can also put a fraud alert on your credit reports. This will cause lenders to take extra steps to verify your identity before they issue credit.

Next, watch your Social Security benefits statement. You can do that here. 

Make sure your earnings records are accurate to ensure no one else is using your Social Security number.

Finally, try to file your tax return as early as possible. Scammers who have someone’s private information often file a fake tax return, asking for a big refund. If it comes through, when you go to file your taxes, you’ll be faced with a new mess.

Learn more about identity theft and your tax return here.

Email your questions to moc.p1603553381leHye1603553381noMJN1603553381@ksA1603553381.

This story was originally published on Sept. 30, 2020.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.