If you’re the victim of identity theft you need to take action quickly to protect yourself from further financial damage. You need to place a fraud alert as soon as you are aware something could be wrong. It's free to do but the protection it provides could be priceless. All you have to do is contact any of the three major credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. Tell them you're an identity theft victim or suspect you could be soon and you need to put a fraud alert on your credit file. Make sure to give them your current contact information so they can reach you if necessary. The agency you call is required to tell the others to set up alerts as well, but ask just to make sure. A fraud alert makes it harder for criminals to open new credit in your name because a business will have to verify your identity before a new account is opened. The fraud alert stays in effect for 90 days and also allows you to get a free credit report from each of the three reporting agencies. Use these reports to look for any unexpected credit applications in your name or problems with bills, payments or personal information. Quickly report any problems you might notice. After 90 days you will have the option to extend the fraud alert but you’ll need to file an official identity theft report with the police or a federal agency. It’s important to take the first step to protect yourself quickly. Remember, placing a fraud alert fast… easy… and free.