How, Why & When to Use a Credit Freeze and Online Fraud Alert
It cannot be denied that we are a society that loves credit. We might not like paying the bills, but we sure like the convenience of being able to use a credit card at nearly any brick and mortar establishment and while shopping online. You know who else loves credit? Cybercriminals. Today’s advanced technology makes it easier than ever for hackers and cybercriminals to commit ID theft once they are able to acquire your sensitive data and personal information. If you think it can’t happen to you, consider that 7-10% of the U.S. population fall victim to identity theft and fraud annually, and of that, 21% are repeat victims. And, unfortunately, many don’t realize that they have been a victim of fraud or ID theft until they’ve already suffered significant damage to their finances and credit. However, while cybercriminals certainly have many methods they can utilize to attempt to get your personal data, you also have a few tools at your disposal to stop or prevent identity theft.
If you are worried that your personal data has been compromised or that you are already a victim of fraud or ID theft, then credit freezes, also known as security freezes, and fraud alerts can be used to protect you.
WHAT IS A CREDIT FREEZE
A credit freeze is a method you can use to stop cybercriminals who have obtained your credit information from doing any further harm. When cybercriminals are engaged in ID theft, they use your credit information and other data to acquire new credit cards or loans in your name. A credit freeze prevents most lenders from being able to pull your credit history, which, in turn, prevents cybercriminals from opening new accounts. However, you should also be aware that other companies that are pulling a credit history on your behalf, such as utility companies, insurers, and mortgage lenders, will be unable to proceed while the credit freeze is enacted. So if you are planning on renting an apartment, switching phone service providers, or seeking a loan, you’ll want to unfreeze your credit at that time and then put the freeze back in place once those transactions are complete.
HOW TO FREEZE CREDIT OR LIFT A FREEZE
To freeze your credit, simply contact the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. To end the credit freeze, simply contact the bureaus again either by phone or by mail. A request made by phone will have the freeze lifted within an hour.
WHAT IS A FRAUD ALERT?
When you ask for a fraud alert, there is a notation made on your account that lets anyone who pulls your credit know that there may be possible attempts at fraud. This allows you to still work with banks, lenders, and other organizations that might need to pull your credit report, but they will be extra careful to ensure that they are dealing only with you, and not an imposter seeking to commit ID theft. A fraud alert typically lasts 90 days, but you can request an extension. Once again, simply contact Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to request a fraud alert.
We hope these suggestions have helped and as usual, if you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected]. We are here to help.