Are you protected from identity theft? – Oct. 24, 2014
Have you subscribed to one of those credit monitoring services? Do you have a “lock” on your credit? (ie, like Lifelock or a “credit control” feature from one of the credit report agencies.)
While those tools may be of assistance in preventing someone from using your information from obtaining credit in your name, they are not sure fire ways of preventing it. Often they are nothing more than monitoring programs which will inform you after the fact that someone obtained credit as you. There is another method which is lower in cost in most cases that a credit monitoring account, and in some cases, entirely free.
In Indiana, (and this forum is directed to the LaPorte Indiana consumer, it is absolutely free for what I will present to you. In other states it may cost anywhere from $0 to $10 per credit reporting agency, and even then, if the person is previously a victim of identity theft, free.
What this solution is, is called a Credit Freeze. You, and only you, request of the three credit reporting agencies, to freeze your credit report. Once frozen, any company requesting a credit report for obtaining credit in your name, will be denied issuing credit. If some goofball with your ID and SSN is checking out at some department store and is offered a store credit card, once they run the data through, it will be denied.
I hear you asking “But what if I want to get a credit card?” It takes a little pre planning… not much, sometimes just a minute or two to THAW your credit report. In most cases you can do this online or with a phone call… all you need is your PIN code, which you probably don’t want to carry around in your wallet, so you may need to plan it out before you leave home rather than the impulse response to the question at the checkout line for a store card in exchange for a discount.
In general, there are three states, FROZEN, THAWED, and NO FREEZE. Once frozen, unless you want to do away with the freeze altogether, you only need to deal with the thaw, which is a temporary state. Depending upon the agency, you can thaw it for a certain period of time or until you re-enable it, and you can thaw it for access for all, or just a particular creditor.
Two years ago when I set out to buy a new car, I thawed my three credit bureau accounts for a period of one week for anyone to see, since I did not yet know who I would be purchasing the car through. I could have just as easily waited until I was in the car dealer’s office and asked which credit bureau they used, and thawed that particular bureau for that particular dealer for just the next hour.
CAVEAT! WARNING! VITAL IMPORTANCE!!!!!
When you freeze your credit, you will receive a PIN code. Be absolutely sure to store this number where you will not lose it. If you lose it, you will have nearly as much trouble obtaining credit in your name as the people you don’t want to get credit in your name. I have heard reports that some people had a rather painless experience after losing their PIN, but just don’t lose it. Why find out?
After years of having my credit frozen, I actually tried the frozen part out last weekend. I was in a department store and was offered a 30% discount if I got one of their cards. What the heck, I’ll give it a try, although I informed the cashier that it probably wouldn’t…uh, shouldn’t go through since I had my credit frozen. Wiz Waz wump… the machine spits back “We are unable to complete processing of your application at this time.” I still got the 30% discount though. I’m not sure if this is repeatable, or is it even ethical to “apply” every time for the discount. Also, since I will be receiving a denial letter from them in the mail mentioning the credit bureau, it might be possible to use that denial to obtain a free copy of my credit report from that agency, although I still have 2 bureaus of my three free yearly’s left to go. (www.annualcreditreport.com is the free one)
The links to the credit freeze pages at the three credit bureaus are as follows.
– state requirements:https://help.equifax.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/75/search/1
– freeze: https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp
– state requirements: http://www.experian.com/consumer/help/states/in.html
– freeze: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
– state requirements: http://www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes/credit-freezes.page
– freeze: use the previous URL and select place a freeze in the right column.