Following the Equifax data breach in the spring of 2017, many consumers asked how this breach could potentially affect them and what precautions should be taken. As Stacey Godwin, Chief Compliance Officer for MONTAG stated in her blog post from April 2017, there are a myriad of ways this information can be used by criminals. This data can allow criminals to:
- Potentially gain access to personal credit card, bank or financial accounts
- Apply for loans or credit cards in your name
- Commit tax fraud (by filing fraudulent tax returns and potentially claiming a refund)
- Impersonate you and commit medical fraud
- Engage in criminal activity using your identity
There are several ways to help consumers safeguard against troubling threats of this nature, and one of these safeguards is a credit freeze. Because there seems to be some ambiguity about what a credit freeze is, and isn’t, we thought we would address that for you here.
For anyone who has been the victim of a stolen identity, you know that the onus is on you to prove you did not do all of the things that some thief has done in your name. It is a long and complicated process.
HERE ARE THE FACTS
A credit freeze does NOT:
- Affect your credit score.
- Prevent you from getting your free annual credit report.
- Keep you from: Opening a new account; Applying for a job: Renting an apartment; or Buying insurance. However, if you do any of these, you will need to lift the freeze temporarily, either for a specific time or a specific party (such as a landlord or employer).
- Prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. You still need to monitor all bank, credit card and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions.
HOW DO I PLACE A FREEZE ON MY CREDIT?
Contact each of the nationwide credit reporting companies:
Equifax: 800-349-9960 or equifax.com
Experian: 888-397-3742 or experian.com/freeze/center.html
Transunion: 888-909-8872 or transunion.com
You will need to provide your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other personal information. Fees vary, commonly ranging from $5 to $10. After receiving your freeze request, each credit reporting company will send a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. You will need it if you choose to lift the freeze.
HOW DO I LIFT A CREDIT FREEZE?
A freeze remains in place until you request the credit reporting company to temporarily lift it or to remove it altogether. A credit reporting company must lift a freeze no later than three business days after receiving your request. The cost to lift a freeze varies.
Please share this information with your friends, your children/grandchildren, and other family members.