So after getting my Yahoo password phished, my wife reminded me that we should put a fraud alert on our credit file. I first heard about this from my friend Walter a while ago, but we never got around to it.
This is a flag that the major credit bureaus (experian, equifax, and TransUnion) attach to your credit report. If someone (including yourself) tries to open up a new credit account, the lender is supposed to (though not required by law) to contact you by phone to make sure that you really do want to open a new account.
Keep in mind that this applies to applying for a new credit card, obtaining a car loan, purchasing a cell phone, etc...
Setting up a fraud alert is pretty easy. There are three major credit bureaus you can call, but I prefer to do these things online. If you go to https://www.experian.com/fraud/, you can apply for the initial security alert (90 days) via the internet. They will forward the alert to the other two credit bureaus so you shouldn’s have to call them. One other benefit is that they let you print out your credit history online for free.
If you live in California, the protections are much better. According to California Law SB 168, you have the right to freeze your credit record at each bureau. This makes it impossible to issue credit in your name, even for someone armed with your name, address, Social Security Number, etc... To do this, you do need to contact each bureau in writing and send in $10.
For instructions on the benefits of a credit freeze and how to contact each credit bureau, check out this page on the Fight Identity Theft website.
Apparently similar laws apply to the following states at the time of this writing (CT, IL, LA, ME, NV, NC, TX, VT, WA).