New Orleans Here’s some news you need to know, courtesy of the good people at US PIRG, the United States Public Interest Research Group, and their recent report entitled, “Why You Should Get Security Freezes.” We’re talking about identify theft here, but more to the point, we’re talking about what almost seems to be an epidemic of data heists that are steadily increasing the odds that if you have a credit card it’s just a matter of time before someone else has your name, number, and perhaps a good deal more.
There were more than one-hundred data breaches in 2015 with over 151 million financial records stolen, including from some credit reporting agencies themselves like Experian, and the US Government for crying out loud. Meanwhile the same credit card outfits, banks, and carnival barkers are steadily trying to get consumers to pay a monthly fee to protect against identify theft without grasping the irony that they are asking their customers to pay them and their subcontractors for losing the information they required the customers to trust to their safekeeping.
The PIRG report makes clear there’s a simple and much cheaper alternative. You just need to say, “NO!, to the credit bureaus, and therefore prevent them from being able to release ANY information to any potential creditors without your permission and say so. That’s what a security freeze is, pure and simple. Since most businesses won’t open credit accounts without checking a consumer’s credit history, ID thieves are blocked at front door, rather than after the fact at the back door when you get the message from your company that you better change your passwords because they are now on their way to the Ukraine or Siberia. You need to block all of the big three companies with a similar security freeze: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. One hand doesn’t wash another there.
PIRG makes it clear that it’s not forever. Usually a thaw can be triggered by a consumer online or by phone within minutes or a maximum of a couple of days if you are about to buy a house or a car or the Hope Diamond or something. You still need to keep an eye out yourself, but by law, as many know, everyone in the US is entitled to a free credit report from each of these companies annually, so you can check yourself for both errors and hanky-panky.
All of this is cheaper too. Instead of paying $10, $20, or more for these so-called identity protection services, some states allow you to put a freeze on them for free and others for a minimal charge, like ten bucks or so. Where you have already been hit by identity theft, it’s a freebie, and for folks over 60, 62, or 65, it may be free for you as well. Freezes are automatically lifted after seven years which probably speaks to some good lobbying by some of the credit card companies looking after their own interest rather than ours, but a “thaw” on the freeze can cost you $8 to $10 depending once again on where you live.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had a great story on the PIRG report and security freezes and suggests that to get started all you have to do is visit the three main national credit bureaus online and look for their “freeze” centers. To get copies of your free credit reports go to www.annualcreditreport.com.
I’m not saying it’s all easy-peasy, but I am saying that if you’re worried about all of these shenanigans and your credit, there’s a clear path and a cheap alternative by clamping down a security freeze to protect yourself. Why not?
Please enjoy Patty Griffin’s Shine A Different Way.
Thanks to KABF!