When to Request a Credit Freeze
Identity theft is a serious risk all Americans face. Thieves work overtime to collect personal information and then gain access to credit while impersonating another person’s identity. When someone falls victim to identity theft, they stand to lose thousands of dollars and hours of their life cleaning up the fraud.
Fortunately, there are tools available to help. A credit freeze blocks people from seeing your credit report. Because most lenders require looking at your credit history before making a loan, a freeze is an effective way to prevent anyone from opening credit in your name.
Requesting a freeze is easy. You should contact the three nationwide credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—either online or by phone. Provide certain information (including your Social Security Number) and request the freeze. It should be free and easy.
Seriously consider requesting a credit freeze in the following situations. Your future financial health might depend on it.
A Data Breach Affects You
Someone armed with your name, date of birth, and Social Security Number could try to open a credit account in your name. Unfortunately, we regularly give out our personal information whenever we sign up for financial products, such as credit cards, or when applying for jobs. Your personal information is in dozens of databases around the country—and each is vulnerable to hackers.
When someone gains unauthorized access to personal information, there has been a data breach. Large scale data breaches regularly make the news and affect millions of people each year. For example, 15 million people had personal information exposed in 2015 when hackers gained access to an Experian server.
Regularly watch the news for data breaches. A company affected by the breach might even report it to you via email, letter, or phone call. You should be proactive and put a credit freeze in place before a thief can use your personal information to harm you.
Someone Has Used Your Credit without Permission
Have you noticed unauthorized charges on a credit card? If so, this person might have gained access to your personal information. It’s bad enough they are using your credit card without permission, but they could be opening even more credit in your name and then defaulting on it.
Obviously, you need to contact your credit card issuer promptly to shut down the account. They should issue a new card and new account number. But you should also follow up with a credit freeze by contacting the three national credit bureaus.
Someone Has Opened an Account in Your Name
You might be receiving bills for a line of credit that you never opened, or you could be getting calls from creditors asking where your payment is. These are clear signs someone is impersonating you.
Also check your credit report regularly. If you notice that someone has opened an account, they will probably do so again. After all, you can’t change your birthdate or your Social Security Number, so you are vulnerable to future identity theft. A credit freeze offers some measure of protection.
We Can Help Victims of Identity Theft
The Plantation bankruptcy attorneys at Nowack & Olson, PLLC can assist when thieves and scammers cost you thousands of dollars. Reach out to us today to discuss whether bankruptcy is right for you.