Avoid Identity Theft with a Credit Freeze

by DAVID NOVAK

I wanted to update a previous article, (identity theft), possibly the one that has elicited the most questions and feedback of any I have written.

Regular readers may recall that a couple of years ago I was the victim
of identity theft. The short version is that somebody in Miami put a forward
on my mail, so they could apply for credit cards in my name without my
knowledge. By the time I got the form letter from the Postal Service—and
sniffed out the fraud—a total of four cards were in the process of being
opened in my name with $15,000 limits on each.

In the midst of cancelling them all, I was implored to activate a credit
freeze at each of the three bureaus, as the bandits normally hit their victims
with a first wave of identity theft, and then come back a few weeks later for
more.

I immediately placed the freeze on credit reporting for both my wife and
I and soon learned that it had worked, as I got “rejection” letters from three
more cards a few weeks after the initial incident.

Ever since, I have advised all my clients, family, friends, etc., to
freeze credit reports for themselves and family members at all three credit
bureaus: Transunion, Experian and Equifax. (It is important to do so at
all three since different entities use different bureaus to pull credit.) A
hard credit freeze shuts down all credit inquiries—both legitimate and
illegitimate—as long as it is in place, thus making it harder for identity
thieves to open up accounts in your name. The act is permanent, unless
you choose to temporarily lift or permanently remove it (with a specific
PIN provided by each bureau).

There has always been one minor nuisance with this process in
Florida—each of the bureaus has charged a $10 fee to initiate the freeze
or to temporarily lift it. However, as of July 1, per the Florida Department
of Financial Services, there is no longer a fee associated with freezing
or unfreezing credit.

In my mind, this removes any final impediment to putting a hard freeze on
your credit. Take it from someone who has been through the process – a few
minutes now can potentially prevent disastrous financial implications down
the road.

Below are the websites to place credit freezes at each of the main bureaus:
www.transunion.com/credit-freeze
www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
www.equifax.com/personal


David Novak, CFP® is a Certified Financial Planner™ at 
Novak & Powell Financial Services in Pinellas County.
Please note: he is not an attorney and this article
should not be construed as one offering legal advice.
For information about investment decisions and
financial planning, contact him at (727) 451-3440.

 

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