No one is completely safe from the threat of identity theft but there is much you can do protect yourself. One strategy that consumers may consider is known as “credit freeze”. If you’re not familiar with the term, this post talks about basic points that you should know about credit freeze.
What is Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze is a service offered by the three major credit bureaus. By placing your credit report on freeze, you can prevent credit card issuers and creditors from accessing your credit report. Thus, in case your identity gets stolen, a thief will not be able to open a new account in your name since access to your report will be blocked. A credit report freeze costs $10-$20 for each bureau.
Need to Apply for a credit card or loan?
What if you need to apply for a new credit card or a loan? Since a creditor will not be able to access your report while it is frozen, you must first request the bureau to unfreeze your report. Unfreezing usually only takes a few minutes after you put in your request. It really depends on the bureau so it’s important to do this step in advance before submitting your application. Requesting to unfreeze your report will cost you another $10-$20 per bureau.
How Long Will My Credit Report Be Unfrozen?
You have the option to set a specific time frame as to how long you want your report to be accessible and the company who can access your file. This is why a credit freeze offers better protection from ID theft than simply putting a fraud alert on your credit report.
Placing your credit report on freeze is just one way to protect yourself from ID theft. Nevertheless, consumers must still be vigilant in protecting their personal information since ID thieves are always looking for and creating new ways to steal your information. Listed below are important steps to safeguard your personal information:
Protect your computer. Hackers and ID thieves can steal information online using malicious programs. Thus, it’s important to install a complete anti-virus program on your computer which can detect viruses, worms, spyware, malware and other attacks.
Use a strong password. A strong password is one that contains both letters and numbers as well as symbols. Avoid using your date of birth, anniversary, and other obvious details as your password. Don’t forget to log out from your account after using the website even if you’re using a personal computer.
Don’t give away your details. If you receive an email or a phone call claiming to be from a government agency or a reputable merchant and asking you to provide your Social Security Number, banking details, etc, don’t reveal any information. Legitimate companies will never confirm a customer’s information in this manner.
Shred financial documents first. Before you discard receipts, old credit cards, and other financial documents, the best thing to do is to use a shredder machine or simply tear or cut it into very small pieces. ID thieves can rummage through trash bins in search for personal information and if you don’t take this extra precaution, you are putting yourself at risk.