What is a Credit Freeze and should I use it?

Data breaches expose consumers’ Personally Identifiable Information (PII) at an alarming rate, and continue to place people at risk of identity theft and fraud.

What is a Credit Freeze?

 

A credit freeze (AKA security freeze) is a tool you can use to help protect yourself against credit fraud.
 
When you freeze your credit reports you are restricting access to these reports. This temporarily suspends anyone from accessing this information, which means neither you nor identity thieves can open new lines or credit or loans in your name.

Think of it as locking away a valuable item until you need it again. When that time comes, you can unfreeze your credit report and once again allow lenders access.

 

Should I use a Credit Freeze?

Whether you’re a victim of credit or identity fraud or choosing to be proactive against this type of crime, a freeze is a great option for protecting yourself.

 

This process is quick as once you contact the credit bureaus by phone or online they must put the freeze in place within 1 business day.

 

Here is the contact information for the three credit bureaus:

 

  • Equifax: Call 800-685-1111 or online
  • Experian: Call 888-397-3742 or online
  • TransUnion: Call 888-909-8872 or online
If you need to ‘thaw’ your credit, you can do this for a specified amount of time or leave it open until you freeze it again.

 

Another added benefit of a credit freeze is that it prevents the bureaus from selling your data, which should stop unsolicited mail / offers.

 

This simple process does not cost anything nor does it affect your credit score. If you want to freeze your credit, you need to do it at each of the three major credit bureaus.

 

Make sure you’re taking the proper steps to secure your information so that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

 

If you have any questions at all please call us at (800) 822-7120.
 
 

Steps to Take if You Have Been a Victim of Identity Theft

Identity thieves are opportunistic and exploit vulnerabilities in individuals’ personal information security practices.  Identity theft is more than a simple inconvenience. It’s a crime that can seriously complicate your life—potentially costing you time, money and opportunities.

 

 

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the number of reported cases of identity fraud in 2020 doubled in the United States. Each piece of information or account they gain access to can help them steal more. Unfortunately, signs of fraud can take weeks or months to reveal themselves, leaving us even more vulnerable.

 

 

Here are the best steps you can take if you have become a victim of identity theft:

 
  • Check for inaccuracies from Your credit reports and make a list of any suspicious information you discover. You will need these details later when you work on fixing your credit later.
  • Change all your account PINs and passwords.
  • Review your mail & credit card statements to confirm none of your accounts have been hijacked.
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit report. When a fraud alert is on your credit report, lenders must confirm your identity (usually via phone) before they can open new accounts in your name.
  • Freeze your credit report.  When you freeze your credit report, you take it out of circulation. So, if someone applies for credit your name, the lender will not be able to access your credit report. As a result, the application for credit will be denied.
  • Contact your creditors and ask them to freeze the compromised accounts and to dispute fraudulent charges.  Federal laws like the Fair Credit Billing Act and the Electronic Funds Transfer Act can limit your liability for bogus charges on your credit cards or debit cards. The trick is to report the theft in a timely manner. Otherwise, you could be responsible for some or perhaps all of the unauthorized purchases.
  • The final step in this process is to fix your credit. Start with filing an identity theft report.  The easiest way to create an identity theft report is to visit IdentityTheft.gov.  Once you have this report you will need to contact the 3 credit reporting agencies and ask them to block the account(s) from your credit report within four business days.  They should suppress any fraudulent accounts.
 

If your case of identity theft has not been resolved to your satisfaction or you need help in this process, email us at erik@thdcreditconsulting.com or call us at 1-800-822-7120.  THD Credit can help.

 

-Erik Kaplan

What should I do if I think I may be a victim of identity theft?

The discovery of identity theft is bound to be a very anxious and stressful experience and it can certainly wreak havoc on your finances and credit. If you suspect identity theft, act quickly to minimize any negative consequences.

Here are 5 key steps to take to stop an identity thief in their tracks.

1) Put a fraud alert on your credit reports – To place a 90-day fraud alert on all three of your credit reports, you only need to contact one of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian,Equifax or TransUnion). When you place the initial alert, the agency will automatically notify the other two for you. Be sure to request a copy of your credit reports to ensure there aren’t any transactions you don’t recognize.

2) Call the fraud department at the companies and financial institutions where you know the identity thief used your personal information. Part of this step may include freezing your accounts that have been compromised. For example, If you know your credit card was stolen, report the theft to the credit card issuer. If your checkbook or debit card was stolen, contact your bank.

3) Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). File an Identity Theft Affidavit and create an Identity Theft Report. The FTC will provide you with information about what to do next, depending on what type of fraud was committed.

4) File a police report. Contact your local law enforcement office and report the theft. Be sure to get a copy of the police report and/or the report number. Both your police report and the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit combine to create your Identity Theft Report.

5) Report identity theft to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by submitting a complaint. Your complaint helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigations. Visit the CFPB’s website to find out more information on submitting an identity theft complaint.

Remember, identity theft can have a negative effect on your credit score. For instance, if a thief opens three new credit cards in your name, the inquiries can each lower your score, the credit card balances will affect your utilization ratio, and the payment history (or failure to pay) can have a big impact on your credit rating.

The key thing to remember is that identity theft hurts your credit the most when it goes unnoticed. Once you catch on, you can take steps to shut down fraudulent accounts and clean up your credit.

If you have questions or were a victim of identity theft and need help cleaning up your credit report, THD Credit Consulting can help. Click here to schedule a free consultation today.

-Erik Kaplan

What is the dark web? How it can threaten a consumer like you!

What exactly is the dark web?  It is a network of untraceable online activity and websites on the internet. They cannot be found using search engines and to access them you need to use specific software, configurations or have authorization. It is accessed by using masked IP addresses to maintain anonymity for users and site owners. This way, people who use the dark web for illegal purposes can’t be traced.
 
Because of its hidden nature the dark web can be a haven for all kinds of illegal activity. For example, one can buy credit card numbers, hacked Netflix accounts, login credentials to a bank account or prepaid debit cards etc.  
 
How to protect yourself from the threats of the dark web:
 
While there’s no fail-proof way to keep your information off the dark web, you can be vigilant about looking for red flags and protecting your accounts, including:
 
  • Use different passwords for every online account. This way, if your password is stolen, only one of your accounts will be compromised.
  • Monitor your accounts and statements for any information that looks off.
  • Use passwords that are considered strong i.e. has a mix of different types of characters (numbers, symbols, lower and upper case) to make the password harder to crack.
  • Change passwords often.
  • Use Experian’s Free Dark Web Scan to see if your Social Security number, phone number, or email address is on the dark web.
  • Monitor your credit report on a regular basis, so you can easily identify fraud and take immediate action.
 If you have questions or would like to work with us to improve your credit reports and raise your credit score, schedule a free consultation today.
 
-Erik Kaplan

What is the difference between a credit freeze and a fraud alert?

Should you apply a credit freeze to your accounts, a fraud alert, or both? To make the right choice for you, you must understand how each one operates and how it effects your accounts.
 
A fraud alert requires that any lenders or creditors take reasonable steps to verify your identity before issuing new credit in your name. You certainly don’t have to be a victim of fraud to initiate a fraud alert. Rather, you can use this as a protective measure. A fraud alert lasts for 90 days; however, you can extend this. If you are a victim of identify theft and have filed the appropriate report, you can extend the fraud report for up to seven years.
 
To place a free fraud alert, contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) either online or by phone. The bureau that you contact is required to share the information with the other two bureaus. You can still open new accounts during a fraud alert as long as you provide suitable proof of your identity.
 
Compared to a fraud alert, a credit freeze offers more extensive protection. With a credit freeze, potential new creditors cannot access your credit report at all; therefore, they will not issue credit in your name. In most states a credit freeze is indefinite, but some states allow the freeze to expire after 7 years.
 
You cannot open any new accounts during the credit freeze nor can anyone access your credit report (including you). You must lift the freeze prior to applying for new credit. It is possible to re-establish the credit freeze, or to specify a period during which it should temporarily be lifted. Neither a credit freeze nor a fraud alert affects your current accounts; they only concern the opening of new lines of credit.
 
Use these tools in whatever way best fits your situation and comfort level, but make sure you understand how to use these tools, before you do, to avoid any credit surprises.
 
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a free consultation, click here.