I was notified by my bank that some of my personal data had been stolen. They were not sure how much...but apparently enough to notify me. That got me thinking, How protected was I if someone decided to use my personal information to open a credit card or app for a loan?
I looked at subscribing to a credit monitoring service, but the truth is that credit monitoring/protection does not actually stop the identity theft from occurring. Such programs only notify you if there is any activity on your credit, and then help you fix the problem after the fact.
Ultimately, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I chose to freeze my credit. A credit freeze allows me to seal my credit reports and use a personal identification number (PIN) to temporarily “thaw” my credit when legitimate applications for credit need to be processed. The added layer of security means that thieves cannot establish new credit in my name even if they have my personal information. In most states the credit freeze permanently remains in your files until you lift it.
Freezing my credit was surprisingly simple – I called all three of the major credit reporting agencies via their automated phone “credit freeze” phone lines:
Trans Union: 1-888-909-8872
I provided their automated system with my Social Security number and some other personal information and was able to complete the process in a few minutes. Two of the agencies made me pay $10 (Equifax graciously allowed me to freeze for free). All three agencies gave me a pin number which they also mailed to my house. In order to “thaw” my credit in the future, I will be required to call the reporting agencies and use my PIN to lift the freeze. It’s important to retain the PIN numbers safely – I have the pin numbers saved in a safe place, as well as backup copies in my safe deposit box at the bank.
The option I chose might not have been suitable had I been in the process of buying a house or car, but since I currently have all the credit I need, it was a perfect decision for me. I strongly encourage everyone to reflect on
their current borrowing situations and if (similar to me) you’re all set with your current credit, then I highly recommend the credit freezing method. With future threats unpredictable, you can never go wrong with a proactive approach against identity theft.