Keeping Your Identity Safe - Part 1: Protecting Your Credit
Posted on 20th Jun 2019View All Posts
Every day, cybercriminals steal the personal information of innocent people. Usually the consequences of these actions are fortunately minimal for most people. This isn’t always the story however. Criminals who gain access to the right information can use that data to steal your identity. Identity theft is the deliberate use of someone else’s identity, usually as a method to gain a financial advantage or obtain credit and other benefits in someone else’s name.
Identity theft is a serious crime with serious consequences for the victim. Victims of identity theft usually suffer financial losses, a ruined credit, and difficulties with filing taxes. In more extreme cases, individuals may spend years cleaning up the mess.
To protect yourself from this type of attack, The Penn Group, The FTC, and Industry experts agree a credit freeze is necessary. A credit freeze is a process that blocks identity thieves and others from looking at private details in your consumer credit history. In addition, The credit bureaus profit from selling copies of your file to others, so freezing your file also prevents them from milking your private data for profits.
Enacted back in May 2018, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act rolls back some of the restrictions placed on banks in the wake of the Great Recession of the last decade. But it also includes a silver lining. Before the law was passed, states allowed the bureaus to charge a confusing range of fees for placing, temporarily thawing or lifting a credit freeze. Today, this is no longer the case.
A security freeze essentially blocks any potential creditors from being able to view or “pull” your credit file, unless you affirmatively unfreeze or thaw your file beforehand. With a freeze in place on your credit file, ID thieves can apply for credit in your name all they want, but they will not succeed in getting new lines of credit in your name because few if any creditors will extend that credit without first being able to gauge how risky it is to loan to you (i.e., view your credit file).
And because each credit inquiry caused by a creditor has the potential to lower your credit score, the freeze also helps protect your score, which is what most lenders use to decide whether to grant you credit when you truly do want it and apply for it.
To file a freeze, consumers must contact each of the three major credit bureaus online, by phone or by mail. Here’s the updated contact information for the big three:
Online: Equifax Freeze Page
By phone: 800-685-1111
By Mail: Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5788
By phone: 888-397-3742
By Mail: Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
By Phone: 888-909-8872
By Mail: TransUnion LLC
P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016
Spouses may request freezes for each other by phone as long as they pass authentication.