Most adults are aware of the epidemic of identity theft. If you think you may fall victim, you can prevent identity theft with a few phone calls.
How Easy is Identity Theft?
Pretty easy, if you listen to news reports about this 21st century crime. As wonderful a technology is, it has opened the Pandora’s Box of devious individuals who access personal information and use it to secure credit in someone else’s name. The victim is usually completely unaware of the crime until the past due notices and phone calls from creditors come in. At that point, it is too late, and a victim may spend several years cleaning up the mess and restoring his credit history and score. Prevention is far better than the “clean-up,” and you can prevent identity theft with a credit freeze.
How a Credit Freeze Works
A credit freeze, in its simplest form, is the action of cutting off access to your credit report by any potential creditor. Your credit report is simply not available to anyone. An identity thief, remember, is trying to establish new credit in your name. A creditor will not grant new credit if he cannot access your credit report to determine if you are a good risk.
A credit freeze is accomplished by notifying each of the three major credit bureaus that you wish to freeze access to your credit. There is a fee charged by each bureau for this service, and it varies by state, from $0 to $60 per bureau. For individuals who have already been the victim of identity theft, a copy of the police report should accompany the written request for the freeze. The fees are then waived.
A credit freeze is obviously a good idea for an individual who does not anticipate any new requests for credit for a period of time. Someone who is comfortable with his mortgage loan, who does not anticipate purchasing a new car or obtaining any new credit cards for a time, will benefit from this action.
For an individual who may request new credit at some time in the near future, there are methods by which the freeze can be temporarily or permanently taken off, again for a fee. “Thawing” the freeze usually takes 3-5 days, and the freezer is given a PIN number to use to remove the freeze as well as re-institute it.
If an individual is planning a change in jobs or is planning to rent a new apartment or home, the freeze should not be instituted until these area accomplished, because employers often check credit reports, and landlords most certainly do.