Is Freezing Your Credit Enough?

You might think that freezing your credit is enough to keep you safe. In fact, freezing your credit was actually a smart thing to do in order to prevent fraud and stop yourself from becoming a victim of ID theft. It is free to freeze your credit whether or not you are a victim of ID theft, and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) recommends that people do this in order to protect themselves. But what if it doesn’t work?

credit freezeLet’s talk about Chuck. Chuck is a guy who contacted the Consumerist with a story about his mother. She was a victim of ID theft and froze her credit because that’s what the FTC suggested. However, one of the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, allowed the hack who had stolen his mother’s ID in the first place, actually lift the freeze! How could something like this happen? Well, it’s much easier than you might think.

These credit bureaus give people a PIN when they freeze their credit. So, to life the freeze, the person must provide the PIN again. However, a PIN is pretty easy to forget, so the companies have created other ways to lift the freeze. For instance, with TransUnion, you must answer a series of personal questions such as “Which of the following phone numbers have ever belonged to you?” or “Which of the following streets have you lived on.” The problem is, this information is extremely easy for a scammer to access.

Of course, this isn’t extremely common, but it can happen, and Chuck’s mother is a good example of it.

TransUnion says that there is an extra layer of protection that it offers to people who cannot remember the PIN they were given. The company sends a written confirmation. This means that they would expect to hear from the consumer if they did not need a new PIN or ask for the account to be unfrozen.

On the surface, this sounds pretty safe, but not everyone constantly checks their email, and many people only check a few times a week. On top of that, it could be a few days before a person knows that their account has been compromised. If this happens, the damage has likely been done.

When you look at security, you should see that it is built up of several layers of protection. This means that if one layer fails, another comes in to bring security. The more layers that are there, the more secure your account information is. This is why experts like me recommend a combination of a credit freeze, ID theft protection, and credit report monitoring. Though nothing can offer a 100% fool-proof method, all of this can greatly increase your chances of not becoming a victim.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

Freeze Your Credit Now, Before it is Too Late!

Do you know what a credit freeze is? It is an action that you can take to lock your credit report down. A lender will be unable to see your credit score, which means that your credit rating and Social Security number will be useless. In other words, they can’t tell if you are a lending risk.

When an ID thief can get access to your Social Security number, they can also apply for credit in your name. However, if the credit file is frozen, the bad guys cannot access it. When you freeze your credit, the file is not accessible.

To gain access to your frozen credit, such as when you want to apply for a line of credit, you have to unfreeze it by using a PIN number given to you by the credit bureau. That’s it. Keep in mind that freezing a credit report does not affect any lines of credit that you have open, and the process is free for those who have become victims of ID theft. However, you can pay a small fee to TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, the three main credit reporting bureaus, and you can freeze your credit.

What Specifically does a Freeze do?

A credit freeze protect you from new account fraud. It prevents criminals from opening up new lines of credit, new accounts that require a credit check.

When is it a Good Idea to Get a Credit Freeze? 

If you are someone who has had their identity stolen, you should consider freezing your credit. If you have a Social Security number, you are considered a target, so you can make it useless to thieves, even if they get it, they cannot use it to open a new account under your name.

What to Know Before You Freeze Your Credit

Before doing a credit freeze, you don’t have to know too much. Just do it. Your credit will be frozen from any and all credit application. This means that lenders, banks, and retailers have spent millions to stop it. Why? Because they cannot instantly approve a line of credit.

How Much Does a Credit Freeze Cost?

A credit freeze is free. There used to be a charge, but a law was passed in

September 2018 making it free for everybody to freeze it and unfreeze it. So just do it

Is it an Inconvenience to Freeze Your Credit?

Freezing your credit is not inconvenient. It only takes a few minutes to freeze and unfreeze your credit file. Of course, you must unfreeze it before you can apply for credit. This means that you have to take a little time to let the thaw pass, but usually that takes only a couple of minutes. This makes the credit freeze more secure and helps to keep you safe.

Does a Credit Freeze Harm Your Credit?

A credit freeze does not hurt your credit in any way. Plus, if you have an existing creditor, they can still do “soft” checks on your credit report.

Does a Fraud Alert Do the Same as a Freeze?

No. A fraud alert only lasts for 1 year, and scammer can still access your credit file and they can still apply for new credit, even if an alert is in place. The creditor might know that you had your ID stolen, but they can still issue credit. A fraud alert will notify lenders that something might be amiss with your credit, but that’s it.

What does a Freeze not do?

A freeze does not protect you from credit card fraud, bank account take-over, if you lose your wallet a freeze won’t help you, it doesn’t protect you from tax related identity theft, criminal related identified, social Security fraud, and many other forms of account take over. Again, specifically it prevents “new account fraud”

If I have a Freeze do I need Identity Theft Protection?

Security is all about “layers of protection” and a freeze only protects you from certain things, whereas identity theft protection will mitigate lots of other forms of fraud. While identity theft protection services don’t protect you from things like tax related identity theft or even medical related fraud, the identity theft protection “fraud resolution experts” and the insurance that comes along with identity theft protection services will generally set a victim straight and fix those forms of fraud.

You can Freeze Your Credit, Here:

Freeze Credit with Equifax.

Freeze Credit with Experian.

Freeze Credit with TransUnion.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

What You Need to Know About Business Credit and Covid Relief

If you are the owner of a small business owner, you might find that you occasionally have issues with your cash flow. One option you have is to open a business line of credit. There are advantages to this, of course, but it’s important that you keep some things in mind.

Business CreditUnderstand the Difference Between Secured and Unsecured

One thing you should know is that you need to know the difference between the types of credit lines. There are both secured and unsecured lines. Secured lines are those that are secured by your company’s assets. If you default, the lender now owns these assets. An unsecured line of credit does not require collateral.

Look at Fees

You also want to take a look at fees. Interest is always going to be part of a loan, but there might be other fees that you can come across. If you access your line of credit time after time, those fees will add up. You might also have some maintenance fees to deal with.

Consider Bank Drawdowns

If there are times of economic uncertainty, the lender might require borrowers to pay back the balance of their credit. They can do this because it’s in the small print, and if you sign the loan agreement, you allow them to do it.

Understand Interest Rate Variability

Most interest rates are variable, and they are based on the prime lending rate. If your interest rate rises, your payment will be higher, and you might find that it’s hard to pay it back.

Think About Insuring Your Line of Credit

You also might want to consider insuring your line of credit. This can help to cover any payments if you become ill, injured, or die.

Understand how to get the Best Line of Credit

There are many lenders giving lines of credit, so it’s important that you do your research before signing on the dotted line. You also might want to look at any borrowing limits and take a close look at the repayment terms.

Get Help from the Small Business Administration

Finally, especially during the Covid pandemic, consider looking to the Small Business Administration for help. They have a plan in place that helps you to obtain credit, though they don’t lend directly. They offer programs like Lender Match, which takes a look at your business and matches you with lenders offering lines of credit that will fit your needs.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

The First Step to Secure Your Data

Your personal information and data are literally everywhere for criminals to target, and there isn’t much you can do to keep it from spreading. You use your email credentials on countless websites, you use your credit card number with countless vendors, and, believe it or not, your Social Security number is shared rapidly immediately after you’re born.

It’s almost impossible to give out your personal information nowadays. However, criminals know this, and they lurk around the same places that your information is used. You need to take action to secure your information so you are less of a target. Let me show you one simple step you can take today that will create one layer of security and improve your defenses.

There is one specific action you can take to secure your information, and after you do it, you’ll be much less likely to be targeted because criminals tend to take the path of least resistance. That said, if you DON’T do this action today, you ARE the path of least resistance.

All you have to do is set up a credit freeze. There are four major credit bureaus in the United States, and you need to get a credit freeze with them. Just use your preferred search engine and look for Experian credit freeze, Equifax credit freeze, TransUnion credit freeze, and Innovis credit freeze. You should freeze your credit with all four, but you should still review your annual credit reports. More importantly, you should dispute discrepancies with the appropriate bureau AND the lender. Getting a credit freeze won’t gum up your credit score or make it so you can’t use credit. You are able to “thaw” the frozen credit as needed and then freeze it again. You can literally do this in a single day. Then you’ll want to put more layers of defense in place to become an even harder target than the other guy.

A credit freeze will secure your information, but setting up multiple layers of defenses is really what will make you a hard target. Criminals are constantly probing defenses, and even while technology advances, crimes against your data are usually ahead of the curve. You don’t need to know everything about security, but you do need to take on the responsibility of protecting yourself. I’ve created a free guide that will make you a pseudo expert on your own security, and if you follow it’s simple steps, you will have more layers of defense than the average person. If you want to create even more layers of defenses, bring this guide to my next webinar, and I will walk you through each step so you can rest assured that you are creating a smart, secure, safer “me.”

Freezing Your Child’s Credit: What You Need to Know

You might not think about this, but identity thieves really want your child’s Social Security number. If they get this number, they can do a lot, including buying a car, renting an apartment, opening a credit card account, or getting a mortgage. The Social Security numbers of children are great for the bad guys for several reasons:

  • Generally, children have a clean record
  • Crooks can use these numbers to obtain credit
  • Kids usually don’t check out their credit reports until they go to college or buy a car or home. So, the crook can get away with it for years.

As a parent, you should think about putting a freeze on your child’s credit report. Why a freeze? Because credit monitoring isn’t enough. That doesn’t always stop a criminal from opening an account using your child’s Social Security number, but a freeze does.

Experian

  • Required by law to freeze a child’s credit no matter what state they live in.
  • Parent gets a free copy of the child’s existing credit report.
  • Could be a small fee unless the parent can prove the child’s identity was compromised.

Equifax

  • This is free to parents if they want to get the freeze.
  • The child doesn’t have to already be a victim of identity theft.
  • To request a security freeze with Equifax, you can contact them online or via phone at 1-888-298-0045

Trans Union

  • Required by law to freeze a child’s credit no matter what state they live in.
  • Parents can check to see if their child has a credit file.
  • Only some states allow credit freezes, and some fees might apply.

Innovis (A fourth credit reporting agency)

  • Required by law to freeze a child’s credit no matter what state they live in.

The laws have changed and now allow parents to freeze their child’s credit no matter what state they live in. It’s important that you find out what your particular state’s requirements are. Watch for these signs that someone could be using your child’s credit:

  • You get a notice from the IRS that your child hasn’t paid income taxes.
  • You get a notice from the IRS that your child’s SSN was used to file a tax return.
  • You get collection notices in your child’s name for things they (or you) didn’t purchase.
  • Government benefits are rejected because they are going into another account associated with your child’s Social Security number.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Get a Credit Freeze NOW Before it’s Too Late!

What is a credit freeze? It’s an action you take to lock down your credit report. A lender can’t see your score, which means your Social Security number and credit rating is useless to them. In other words, they can’t tell if you are risky or not.

When an identity thief can access your ID aka Social Security number, they can also create credit in your name. However, if your credit file is frozen, the bad guys can’t access it any longer. With a credit freeze, your credit file is inaccessible.

To get access to your frozen credit, when you need to new line of credit, you have to use a credit bureau issued  PIN to unfreeze it. It’s easy. Freezing a credit report doesn’t affect any existing lines of credit, and the process is free for everyone including kids.

When is it a Good Idea to Freeze Your Credit?

If you are a person who has had their identity stolen, you should freeze your credit. If you have a Social Security number you are a target. If you breathe you are a potential victim. Make your SSN useless to the thief by freezing your credit

What You Should Know Before Freezing Your Credit

Before you freeze your credit, there isn’t much to know. You should simply do it. Your credit should always be frozen from all transactions, and retailers, banks, and lenders have spent many millions trying to stop it. Why? Because this stops them from instantly approving a credit line. They are not concerned about your identity, only their bottom line.

What does it Cost to Freeze your Credit?

Its free. Just freeze your credit already and stop asking so many questions!

Is Freezing Your Credit Inconvenient?

Freezing your credit is not an inconvenience. It only takes a couple of minutes to freeze and unfreeze your credit file. Of course, you need to unfreeze before getting approved for credit. That simply means prior to initiating an application for credit, you need to spend 5 minutes administrating the thaw. This boils down to a simple change in the current process which makes you more secure. Think of a freeze as putting on your seatbelt. It’s just something you have to do.

Does a Credit Freeze Harm Your Credit?

Nope. It doesn’t affect your credit score at all. And exiting creditors can still do “soft” checks on your credit.

Doesn’t a Fraud Alert Do the Same Thing?

A fraud alert only lasts for a year, and the bad guys can still access your credit file and apply for new credit. This informs a creditor that you might have had your ID stolen, but they can still, and do, issue credit. At their best, fraud alerts simply notify lenders that something might be going on with your identity. It’s really just a false sense of security.

Where You Can Go to Freeze Your Credit:

To freeze your credit with Equifax, click here.

To freeze your credit with Experian, click here.

To freeze your credit with Trans Union, click here.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

How to freeze your Child’s Credit

Identity thieves are after children’s Social Security numbers. With this number, a thief can do so many things like open a credit card account and rent an apartment. Kids’ SSNs have great appeal to crooks because:

  • A child’s record is usually very clean.
  • This means fertile opportunities for new credit lines.
  • Kids usually don’t check their credit reports and thus the fraud can go undetected for years.

3DParents should consider putting a freeze on their kids’ credit. Simply getting the credit monitored will not prevent thieves from opening accounts using the child’s SSN. A freeze does literally that: blocks a fraudster from doing anything.

Experian

  • Will not create a file for a child unless required by state law, unless they are victimized.
  • However, will give a free copy of an existing file of a child to the parent and will freeze it upon request.
  • There may be a very small fee unless the parent provides proof that the minor’s identity was stolen.

Equifax

  • Their freeze is free and doesn’t answer to any state requirements.
  • The child need not already be a victim of ID theft to get the freeze.

Trans Union

  • Their site allows parents to check for a credit file of their kids.
  • Freezes are permitted only in states that allow this. Fees may apply.

 

Innovis (another credit reporting agency)

  • Parents can place a freeze no matter what their state says.

Not all the states provide protection for minors’ credit. Find out what your state’s requirements are, as some, for instance, provide only a flag on the Social Security number. Other states have protection going up only to age 16.

Signs that someone is using your child’s SSN:

  • You receive an IRS notice claiming your child didn’t pay income taxes.
  • You get an IRS notice informing you that another tax return used your child’s SSN.
  • You receive collection notices for things you didn’t purchase.

Rejection of government benefits because the benefits are going to another account with your child’s SSN.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

How to Remove Fraudulent Lines of Credit

You just learned you have a new credit card account by checking your credit or because a bill collector called you. Problem is that you don’t remember ever applying for it. You must find out what’s behind this new account and how it got there.

  • Call the corresponding phone number listed with the account seen on your credit report.
  • Begin the process for disputing the entire account.
  • Get the name (and employee ID number) of every person you speak to and a transaction or reference number for every phone call.
  • Speak to the fraud specialist for the issuer of this new account.
  • Maybe you did apply for it. If you didn’t, find out if there are any charges on it.
  • If the issue isn’t cleared up with one phone call, see what your options are to put a freeze on the account while things are being checked into.
  • Get your free credit reports from TransUnion, Equifax and Experian to see how this new account appears.
  • If you’re still in a quandary over this, put a fraud alert and security freeze on all three reports.

Taking Matters Further

  • If it’s fraud, file an ID theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You’ll get an identity theft affidavit online; immediately print it because it can be viewed only once through the FTC’s system.
  • Next, bring the ID affidavit form to the police, plus other documents relevant to your case, and file a report. Don’t assume your problem is too trivial.

What if the credit card issuer is not helpful?

  • Send a certified letter requesting they freeze or even close the account.
  • Include with that letter a copy (not the originals) of the FTC affidavit and police report.
  • The letter should request written proof of the authorization for opening this account.
  • Another request: written statement absolving you from any responsibility towards charges on this mysterious account.
  • Did you know that the creditor has 30 days or less to send you a written summary of its investigation?

If you’ve been assured that the account will be removed, don’t just take their word; follow up to make sure this was done.

You should not be responsible for any debts incurred by this fraudulent account. Any negative notes on your credit report, related to this account, should be wiped clean.

What if after all that, the account still remains open and you feel the case was not handled properly? File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Hopefully you won’t have to hire an attorney, though that’s also a next step.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to TheBestCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention.

8 Tips to protect your Money – and your Identity – from Theft

When you hear the dictum, “You should protect yourself from identity theft,” do you equate this with pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with rocks up a hill? It would actually be more accurate to picture slicing into a fresh apple pie, because identity theft protection is as easy as pie. Check out the following things you should do—without breaking any sweat: http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-online-risks-sign-road-banner-image34668294

  1. Examine your credit card statements once a month to catch any unauthorized charges. Even a tiny charge should not be blown off, since often, thieves will start out small to “test the waters.” Once they get away with this, they’ll be surfing the big waves if you don’t pounce on them quickly.
  2. Buy a shredder. Don’t rely on tearing up documents with your hands, especially unopened envelopes. A shredder will blitz them to fragments that a “dumpster diver” won’t be able to piece together. Until you get a shredder, use scissors and snip up anything that has sensitive information on it.
  3. Put the names and phone numbers of your credit/debit cards on hardcopy so you’ll have a quick way to contact them should any become stolen.
  4. There are three major credit report bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. At least once a year review your credit reports with them, as they can reveal if, for instance, someone opened a credit card account in your name.
  5. If you ever lose your cell phone, anyone can obtain sensitive data you have stored in it—unless it’s password protected. And please, use a strong, long password, since the thief might be someone who knows you and is capable of sitting there trying all sorts of permutations with your beloved dog’s name, a la Duke1.
  6. Are a lot of your sensitive paperwork and documents in unlocked file cabinets that anyone can get into? The thief could be a visiting family member (yes, family members can be crooked), the cleaning lady, repairman, window guy, dishwasher installer, a visiting neighbor, you name it. A fireproof safe will protect these documents.
  7. All of your computers should have antivirus, antimalware and antispyware software, that’s regularly updated.
  8. Install a virtual private network to encrypt all free WiFi communications. Hostspot Shield is a good example.
  9. Put a freeze on your credit, at least if you don’t plan on applying for any credit lines or loans in the near future; you’ll be blocked until you unfreeze it, but so will thieves.

More on Credit Freezes

  • Freezing is free for ID theft victims; there’s a small charge for non-victims ($15 per credit bureau, which may be for all time, depending on your state’s policies).
  • “Thawing” the freeze (which takes five minutes) is free to victims and up to $5 for non-victims.
  • It will not affect your credit score.
  • It works because they block lenders from seeing your credit scores. So if someone gets your identity, they can’t open credit in your name because lenders need to see those scores.
  • You won’t be able to see your credit reports unless you have a PIN to access them.

Identity theft doesn’t have to be a scary nightmare. As long as consumers follow these basic tips and guidelines they can prevent many forms if identity theft.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

How to build up or rebuild your Credit

After taking all the necessary steps to Fixing a Credit Report after being hacked, it is then tome to rebuild your credit. Bad credit is bad credit no matter how it happens. No matter how responsible you are with your money, you won’t get a loan if there’s no evidence of this. The evidence comes from having credit. You need to show lenders you can be trusted.12D

  • Every time you apply for a credit card, this puts a dent in your credit score. In other words, it can negatively affect your scores especially if there are lots of credit checks in a short period of time. So apply with a lot of discretion; do you really need that extra charge card? Or is it worth it to continually cancel accounts and open new accounts while playing the interest/points game?
  • Get a major credit card. A charge card is an opportunity to show that you will pay back, on time, money that you “borrowed.” A debit card for this purpose is meaningless because it withdraws money from your account on the spot.
  • An option is a type of credit card that requires a security deposit. Payment of your bills will not come from this security deposit. But it looks good to a potential lender, making you seem more trustworthy.
  • Charge things like gas, food and other items, and/or put a monthly bill on the card for automatic payments such as your cable bill, then pay the card on time every single time—ideally the entire balance. This will create a record of your trustworthiness.
  • Charge no more than 50 percent of the card’s limit in any given month, even if you CAN pay the whole thing off every month. Exceeding 50 percent, some say, can adversely affect your credit score.
  • A rule of thumb is to charge only what you’d be able to pay in cold cash every month. Just because your card has a $5,000 limit doesn’t mean you should rack up $4,500 worth of purchases in one billing cycle.
  • Use the card every month; don’t let it go dormant, as this is not impressive to a lender. If you’re having a tough time remembering to charge things like new shoes, food, drug store items, etc., then set it up for automatic draft of a monthly service.
  • Even ONE late payment will screw things up. Remember, charge only what you’d be able to pay for in cash each month. If you can’t, don’t charge it.
  • If YOU check your credit report any time; it won’t dent your credit score. When lots of creditors check your credit, that can affect your scores.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to TheBestCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247. Disclosures.