Everyone is hacked left and right. Anthem lost 80 million records. The US government was hacked and lost the personal data of millions to the bottom of fingerprint data. Now Experian, a credit bureau was hacked. So how can you protect yourself from criminals who open accounts in your name?
Disclaimer: We’re not tax or financial advisors, so make sure to do your own research and maybe talk to a professional before taking any of the steps on this page. This article was written from our own experiences dealing with identity theft recently.
The trick anthem was one of the greatest hackers ever, social security numbers, addresses, and much more personal information stolen, but it’s hardly the first – last year, JP Morgan had 76 million customer records stolen and Postal service lost 800,000. And those were only the latest, high-profile hacks where personal information was lost, as opposed to Target, eBay, Sony, Home Depot and other hacks where most received emails and passwords. How many hacks have not been updated yet, or worse, not even noticed?
At this point it is probably best to assume that criminals have access to enough personal information to open an account in your name or they will soon.
After all, you really do not need anything more than a name and Social Security number to open a credit card account. Fortunately there is good news.
How to deal with your personal information stolen
Most people do not realize this, but in reality it can freeze your credit report so no one can access it. That means credit card companies, banks, shops, apartments, and anyone else who usually requires not be able to pull your credit. Meaning you can not open an account in your name.
Of course, this also means that you can not open an account, while the credit report is frozen. Luckily the three credit bureaus will temporarily (or permanently) unfreeze your credit report so you can apply for something. And then you can refreeze it again later if you wish.
The only drawback to this is that, depending on their status, the freezing of their accounts is not always free unless you have proof that your identity was stolen and a case report – which will cost anywhere connection up to $ 10 for each of the three credit bureaus. And you’ll have to make the process separately for each.
It is important to note that almost every time you try to open a new account of any type – cell phone, car insurance, apartment, credit card, store card, or anything like that, you can access your credit report . Fortunately only a phone call five minutes it takes to lift the freeze, or a simple online form, and you can specify when freezing must be returned in force. Like most creditors only a credit bureau, it is not necessary to lift the freeze on the three increasingly used simply ask that you use, and lift the freeze on you.
If you freeze your credit reports?
It depends. If you have any reason that your credit report is pulled on a regular basis, for their work, this might not work for you. If you open accounts all the time, this will probably cause a bit of a problem for you – although our general financial advice would be not to open new credit every week.
If the credit report everyone froze default except when needed for use, there would be no such thing as identity theft. Think of it.
The difference between a Security Freeze and Credit Monitoring
Credit bureaus really, really, really they want you to pay for credit monitoring, because it is a $ 10 or $ 20 recurring monthly charge forever. They each offer their own “lock”, but only for paying customers, and they actually have to pay for all three of them if you want it to work well. Of course, that’s the solution to all your marketing push, because that is how the bills are paid.
But credit monitoring only alerts you after someone opens an account in your name. What is the point? Sure, you can try to fight it, but at the moment it happens, the damage is already done. And if you have to pay for credit monitoring for the three agencies all the time, you’re going to go bankrupt.
A security freeze, however, will prevent anyone from opening an account without having access to all your information and your secret PIN number (10-digit code for two of the agencies and a 6-digit code for third) .
If you have to pay for a security freeze it is a one time fee as opposed to a monthly fee (forever) for monitoring. To “unfreeze” your credit report frozen could be free, depending on the state or agency, or can cost up to $ 10. If you are a victim of identity theft, you can get everything for free, but you have to figure the process to officially file a report and get a case number.
When you read all the pages of help from the credit bureaus, they will recommend that you use their other services, and make a great thing to do a security freeze on your account will make it difficult to obtain credit. But that’s a bit exaggerated – it can easily lift and a freeze temporarily if you decide to ask something, you just do it soon. How is that a problem?
In short, a $ 30 maximum time to freeze their credit in the three agencies is cheaper than paying $ 20 a month for monitoring for the rest of his life.
Freezing your credit accounts
For each of the three credit bureaus, there is a process that will have to go through – first, you must go to each of your web pages separately, put in all your personal information, if you have to pay $ 10 fee, you need to enter your credit card number, and then have to verify that you are who you say you are based on the questions of your credit report.
I really recommend that you have a copy of your credit report handy, since some of these questions can be tricky.
Alternatively, you can call each of them separately and make the process over the phone, or even can mail the forms and information necessary for each of them. They need things like a copy of all your information, a utility bill in your name, and other information – that will have to check with each to see what they need.
NOTE: Make absolutely sure to click through these links that you are in the right place. Check the address bar to make sure that showing HTTPS. Otherwise, go directly to each of its sites and find the option to lock up, usually hidden in the bottom of the page.
Go to https://www.freeze.equifax.com and fill out the form or call the number listed on the page. They also have a help page with more information.
Go to https://www.experian.com/freeze/ and complete the form. They also have a help page with more information about other options of how to freezing.
Go to https://freeze.transunion.com and complete the form. They also have a help page with more information (we’d recommend reading the first).
At some point during the process or given the option to choose a PIN number or your system will automatically generate one for you. Write this number. Put it in a safe place where you never lose. If you want to unfreeze your credit report in the future, you will need this PIN.
If you do not keep your PIN number, you will have to go through a tedious process of calling the credit bureau and request a new one, which could take a week to get home via mail.
Alternative: Place a fraud alert
If you do not want to freeze your credit in full, you can also place a fraud alert on your account for free. This works for 90 days, then the process to follow is a bit confusing unless you have a police report. Here are the links to Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If you make a fraud alert on a credit bureau, it will automatically apply to all three of them.
Personally, we went with the credit freeze. But it’s up to you.
One last note
When scammers steal your identity, often file a fraudulent tax returns in your name, with your tax deposited into your account instead of yours. This is a real problem – in 2012, the scammers managed to raise 4 billion dollars this way. Be sure to file your tax return as soon as possible to prevent this from happening to you.