You could wake up one day soon to find that a criminal had used your good credit and stolen identification information and to purchase themselves a new Jaguar, take out a mortgage on your home, or open up some credit cards and then max them out? We all know somebody that’s happened to.
There have been so many data breaches in the last few years that you would do well to assume that your information is out there. The recent Marriott / Starwood breach alone exposed a treasure trove of detailed personal identification and financial data on over a half billion guests.
While there is no end of creative mischief a thief can generate using your stolen ID information, you can shut down one of the most common scams. It’s easy to prevent someone from opening new accounts in your name by freezing your credit with the major credit bureaus.
A credit freeze just means that the no one sees your credit history and rating unless you want them to. It doesn’t impact your credit score or interfere with any of your open lines of credit. But no one can open new accounts in your name. For the vast majority of us, it’s a great idea.
It’s a shame more people aren’t aware how simple it is to freeze their credit.
By law, credit bureaus must freeze and unfreeze your records upon request. It’s free, and straight forward. You can do it by phone, letter, or most conveniently on line.
If you need to unfreeze your credit for a particular transaction, the bureaus are required to unfreeze it within an hour to your online request. So, it won’t keep you from buying that new Tesla, renting an apartment, applying for a job, opening a new bank account, or taking out a mortgage. When that transaction is done you can re-freeze your credit.
To get any benefit, you will need to freeze your credit with all three major credit bureaus. By going on line, I was able to open accounts and complete all three requests within an hour. But, be prepared to give them enough information so that they can positively identify you. Once you finish they will send you a key to use when unfreezing or refreezing your account. Save it.
Here the addresses to use to freeze your credit for the major bureaus:
Going forward all of us are going to have to be more aware of potential ID theft and cybersecurity. Freezing your credit all by itself isn’t a silver bullet. It’s one of many things you must do to guard your identity and lower your profile to cyber criminals. But, it makes you a much harder target for many common cyber scams.