The most powerful, effective, safe, and easiest way to protect yourself against identity theft is to Freeze your credit with America’s three major credit reporting agencies.
Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union are America’s major credit reporting agencies. There are three things you can ask them to do to help you protect your credit.
Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union do not issue credit, they simply report the factual history of your use of credit to those who are attempting to decide whether to issue you a new credit card or line of credit to purchase a house, condo, car, TV, diamond ring, mattress, etc.
1. The Credit Freeze is the MOST POWERFUL tool at your disposal.
How can a Credit Freeze protect your credit? It is designed to prevent a credit thief or from being able to secure any new consumer credit card or line of credit by using your personal information that they may have stolen thus enabling them to assume your identity.
For example, suppose a credit thief, angry ex-spouse, or an estranged family member somehow manages to obtain all the vital information necessary they need to open a new account in your name. He fills out the application using your personal information…name, address, date of birth, social security number, previous addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc. and submits it to XYZ Credit Card Company. When XYZ processes his bogus application they check with one or more of the big three credit reporting agencies to see whether he is worthy of credit. When they submit their electronic verification they hit the Credit Freeze you have placed upon your credit and the identity thief is promptly denied a new credit card, automotive loan, etc. Whether he tries this once or 100 times, he is denied credit each and every time. Your credit freeze has stopped him cold in his tracks and your good credit rating is preserved.
Mild Disclaimer: While a Credit Freeze will stop 99.999% of fraudulent attempts, it can’t stop every single attempt to open a fraudulent account in your name. Unfortunately, there is an infinitesimal chance that someone will find a way around it…for example, if an identity thief applies for a small line of credit with a local store such as: “Jim’s TV World,” he may successfully open that account because “Jims TV World” does not use one of the big three credit reporting agencies to verify the thief’s credit worthiness. Jim may do nothing but accept his word that he will pay, or he may go so far as to call your local bank and they may give him an OK to proceed in lending “you” $1,000 for a new big screen TV. However, if Jim had simply checked with one of the big three credit reporting agencies he would have denied the thief his credit request immediately because your Credit Freeze would have frozen Jim dead in his tracks because Jim is not crazy about losing a $1,000 TV.)
You can initiate a credit freeze and have the ultimate sense of protection against credit theft by clicking each of the three links below and freezing your credit with the big three reporting agencies. There is a $10 charge for this service in most states, and a slightly higher ($15-20) fee in a few others. Your credit freeze is permanent in that it does not have to be renewed. However, you can have the ability to temporarily suspend or “unthaw” the freeze should you decide to open a new credit account, buy a house, buy a car, etc. You simply request that it be “unthawed” or suspended temporarily when you wish to open any new account or apply for any new loan. Once it is temporarily suspended it is automatically renewed and your credit remains frozen until you “unthaw” it once again. There is a small charge for unthawing, usually $10-20 per process, and no additional charge for it to be refrozen.
Does the Freezing my credit hurt my credit score? No, not in the least, it actually tells someone that you are a savvy consumer who is in charge of his / her credit.
Jesus warned his disciples in Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Be proactive and do something to protect your credit.
Active links to initiate a Credit Freeze with credit reporting agencies...
Equifax Experian Trans Union
2. The Fraud Alert is the SECOND MOST POWERFUL tool you can use.
A Fraud Alert informs anyone checking your creditworthiness that there may be a potential theft of your identity and that anyone desiring to grant additional credit to you should be cautious because someone other than you may be applying for credit in your name. Millions of people have paid credit protection companies such as Life Lock, etc. hundreds of millions of dollars to put a “Fraud Alert” on their credit histories.
You can initiate a credit fraud alert by contacting Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union and asking for the alert to be placed on your account. Fraud Alerts last for 90 days and if you desire to continue having an alert placed on your accounts must be renewed every 90 days. Initiating a fraud alert is a simple process that involves calling each of the big three credit reporting agencies, entering some information about yourself, and requesting that a fraud alert be placed upon your accounts. This is offered by the big three as a service that is free of charge. For the alert to be effective you should contact all three of the agencies as simply placing it on one account will leave the other two unprotected. For a fee, Life Lock, and other companies will do this for you. If you are desirous of saving money you can do this yourself by contacting Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union and placing the alert yourself. It takes less than five minutes each, it is free, and will give you the peace of mind that when a potential credit issuer pings your account to verify your credit worthiness they will at least be confronted with the fact that you have placed your potential creditors on alert that someone may have stolen your identity. Can a thief manage to steal your credit even though there is a fraud alert placed on your account?
The simple answer is YES! The alert does not prevent a credit card company or other entity from issuing credit in your name…it merely alerts them to the fact that you feel that your may have been targeted by identity thieves. XYZ Credit Card Company may go ahead and allow the thief to open a new account in your name, however, the alert may dissuade them from granting a new line of credit and the thief would be foiled. A Fraud Alert can help but offers no guarantee of stopping fraudulent credit attempts.
Does placing a Fraud Alert on my credit accounts hurt my credit score? No, not in the least.
3. Credit Monitoring is the LEAST POWERFUL tool you can use.
Equifax, Experian, Trans Union, and other companies offer to provide you with a credit monitoring service. If you choose to use these services you will have to pay for them and the fees can vary widely. In most cases, you will be sent an email alerting you that something unusual has happened regarding your credit account. The alert will inform you that someone has applied for credit in your name. In addition, you may log in to your credit report at any time 365 days per year and check for any irregularities or issuances of new credit. Without initiating a Credit Freeze, the monitoring service seems to be of little value as it would simply report an event after the fact and would not prevent someone from using your identity to secure new credit using your name.
However, there is an advantage to credit monitoring in that it would enable you to spot and intercept any discrepancies you may have in your credit report and have them duly noted and corrected.
4. One of the greatest weapons you have against credit thieves is for you to use cash.
When paying for meals and other goods and services many have been robbed by a simple process called “skimming.” Skimming happens when a waiter or another employee swipes your card twice; once for the restaurant, and once for themselves on their personal private card reader. If you use cash for these transactions you avoid the risk of having your bank account cleaned out.
Other forms of protection include single use credit cards, and the practice of Never Never Never using your debit card in restaurants, online, or in places that do not require the use of your pin number. Thousands of horror stories have been told by people whose bank accounts have been picked clean by unscrupulous waiters, online merchants, and other thieves out to steal your hard-earned cash.