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Security freeze is best way to combat identity theft

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Wanda Naylor

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Sunday, September 24, 2017

 

Lock It Down Today!

Alert! Alert! Equifax has been hacked.The personal credit information of 143 million Americans has been stolen.

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. It affects the rich and the poor; it can even affect your children. Unfortunately, we usually do not know we are victims until the harm has been done to our credit history, our bank accounts and our good names.

You know now, however, that you may be a potential victim. The best protection may be to act before your identity is stolen. The first step is to lock your credit. A security freeze is a voluntary block an individual may place with a credit reporting agency (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) that prevents an identity thief from opening a new account or getting credit in your name.

One of the best ways we can protect ourselves is to place a security freeze on each of our three credit reports with the major reporting agencies. This can be done online in less than 2 minutes per site and is free. The agency will have your credit locked down within 24 hours.

Due to the high volume of usage on Equifax due to the hacking, the best time of day to freeze your report with them is early in the morning. If you need to unlock your credit to apply for a new credit card, buy a new car or a new home, you just go back to the sites and unlock your credit with a specially designed pin while your requesting company does the credit check. Unlocking your credit also takes just a short window of time. Afterwards, you should relock it. This process is fast and it is free.

The easiest method for putting in place a security freeze is by using the North Carolina Department of Justice website http://www.ncdoj.gov/freefreeze.

On this page you will use the online form to lock your credit with each agency. Once you access the form, you must enter your name, address, date of birth, social security number and email. The reporting agencies already have this information. You set up a PIN to allow you access. This must be done three times, one for each site.

Afterwards, you can sign up for CreditKarma which will tell you it cannot access your credit because it is locked. Then, to lift the freeze, use the same form from the N.C. Department of Justice site and enter your PIN. Your credit will be able to be accessed by the person or bank where you need credit. Just be sure to remember to lock it back down afterwards.

The second step is that everyone should check their credit report which is free with each one of the three reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If you select a different reporting agency every four months, you are assured to pick up a problem (someone stealing your credit) when it is small rather than a major credit casualty. This is done by using the site www.annualcreditreport.com which was established by the Amended Fair Credit Reporting Act. It is free and each agency must provide your report.

This is not your credit score. To get the numeric number, you generally will be required to pay a fee. Checking your report assumes that some one has already absconded with your good name, accessed your credit history and probably obtained a credit card or worse in your name.

The third thing you should do to protect your identity is to protect it. Do not give your personal information freely. Always question any site that requires you to give personal info including your passwords. Think before you type. Store your passwords and PINs in a safe place. Regularly change your passwords and be sure they are difficult to detect.

Remember your credit score (credit report) is your No. 1 financial asset and the portal for not only borrowing money, but also for jobs and even insurance. Put a security freeze in place today.

Wanda M. Naylor is on faculty with the College of Business in the Department of Finance at ECU.

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