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

  • Doesn’t create a credit file for a child unless this is required by law or unless they become a victim.
  • 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

  • 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)

  • A parent can freeze their child’s credit file, even if the state doesn’t allow it.

Again, not every state allows protection for a child’s credit. It’s important that you find out what your particular state’s requirements are. Some, for example, might only put a fraud alert on the child’s Social Security number. Other states only offer protection up to a certain age, like 16-years-old. 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 unlock or unfreeze it. It’s easy. Freezing a credit report doesn’t affect any existing lines of credit, and the process is free for those who are victims of identity theft. For almost a decade, the big three credit bureaus, Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax, allow non-victims to pay a small charge and also get their credit frozen.

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?

The fee for freezing your credit varies based on the credit bureau. It might be free or there might be a small fee. The state Attorney General determines the rate. You must pay a $5.00 fee to lift the freeze.

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 90 days, 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.

Everything you need to know about a Credit Freeze

A credit freeze locks down your credit report so lenders can’t see your scores, making your credit/SSN useless to them because they don’t know their risk level.

1SIf thieves get ahold of your ID, they can’t get credit in your name as long as your credit is frozen. Freezing your credit will seal your credit reports. You’ll need a PIN to access your credit to allow valid services to check your credit when needed. Freezing won’t affect existing credit lines and are free to victims of ID theft. Since 2008, the three big credit bureaus have allowed non-victims to freeze their credit for a small charge.

When is a credit freeze a good idea?

For anyone 18 and over who has a credit report and those under 18 whose identity is stolen and for whom a report is then generated by default.

What should I consider before ordering a credit freeze?

Nothing. Just do it. Credit should be frozen across the board, but banks/retailers/lenders have spent millions lobbying to prevent that, as it would eliminate instant credit, and these institutions say that it would “gum up” the system of lending.

What are the costs?

Free to $15.00 per credit bureau for life, depending on the deal your state attorney general made with the bureau back in 2008. Then free to $5.00 to thaw it each time you apply for new lines of credit.

Inconvenience: It requires planning large financial decisions and being responsible. So horrible. Otherwise it takes five minutes per bureau to temporarily thaw your credit prior to financing a new line of credit at an auto dealer, mobile phone provider, etc.

Can a credit freeze hurt your credit score?

NO.

How does a credit freeze differ from a fraud alert?

Fraud alerts are only 90 days, and they don’t freeze your credit; they only alert a lender that you may have had your identity stolen, but don’t stop the lender from issuing credit in any way.

Fraud alerts at best are “notifications” that something may have gone wrong with your identity, but only suggest the lender takes additional steps to contact you before establishing credit in your name. It’s a false sense of security.

Where to Freeze:

Equifax

https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp

Experian

https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

Transunion

http://www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes/credit-freezes.page

Just do it. NOW.

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

5 Tips to Credit Card Identity Theft Prevention

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

In a recent article in Computer World, Tom Patterson CSO of Magtek, with his Glamor Shot photo, provides “5 counter-fraud tips you’ve never been told”. Anything a consumer can do to reduce their risk for account takeover, they should exercise. While in most cases the consumer isn’t responsible for the losses, as long as you refute the fraud in a specified time frame, and it’s your duty as a citizen to do so. Studies show much of the terrorists funding is coming from card fraud. Card fraud is a breach of national security.

Tip#1 Stare down your waiter, waitress, gas station attendant or anyone who you hand your card. Or at least stare at the card in process. You want to see where that card is going and how it’s being used. The idea here is to make sure the card isn’t being “skimmed” with a skimmer. This is good advice when it’s possible. Most waiters, gas station attendants walk away with the card. This really only works at a POS where the clerk never leaves the terminal. What you should see is the clerk swiping the card through a PC/register based fixed keyboard or terminal. If you see them swipe the card in a handheld skimmer or something on their body, like attached to a  belt or ankle that’s a redflag.

Tip#2 Shield your pin. This is absolutely necessary at any POS or ATM. The public nature of these devices makes it very easy for someone to shoulder surf and grab your pin. A cell phone video cam over your shoulder, a video camera from 50 feet away, binoculars or even a hidden camera attached the to face of the ATM can all compromise your pin. See here as explained in this video I did on ExtraTV demonstrating how I bought an ATM off Craigslist and rolled it all over Boston.

Tip#3 Change your card number. With millions of card numbers hacked over the last few years, chances are yours was compromised. I for one have had 3 changes of credit cards due to card issuers being proactive and sending me a new card whether I liked it or not. Tom suggests voluntarily changing your credit card number every few months. While this is an extra layer of protection, it’s not at all practical and I doubt even Tom does it. I have numerous EFT’s set up with my cards and changing the number means changing them as well. It’s enough of a burden to change it all when the banks issue a new card. But a nice idea if you have the time.

Tip#4 Check your credit card statements every day. This is an extra layer of protection that requires savant like attention. You check your email every day so checking your credit card statements every day is do-able right? Every week is sufficient. Even every 2 weeks is OK. Just make sure to check with your bank to determine what their cutoff date is to refute unauthorized withdrawals. For most credit cards it’s 60 days. For most banks it can be under 30 days. This is the most important tip of all.

Tip#5 Authenticate the card. Or the card holder. Today this is out of the hands of the consumer. There are a number of new technologies that if banks/retailers/industry adopt to identify the actual card/user at the POS or even online then most, if not all of the card fraud problems will be solved. There is a race going on right now to see who gets there first. In the next 1-5 years we may see new cards being issued such as “chip and pin” which are standard in Europe. Or no new cards at all but changes in the system that the card holder is unaware of, or a 2 card system that requires a second swipe of another authenticating card the hacker doesn’t have access to. There are also readily available technologies that will allow the turning on/off of your card with your own preset spend limits too. We will see how this all plays out.

 

Robert Siciliano identity theft speaker discussing credit card fraud on CNBC

10 Tips to Secure Online Holiday Shopping

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

UK officials shut down an amazing 1200 online retailers who scammed millions from unsuspecting shoppers. Most of the sites originated from identity thieves in Asia who tricked victims into believing they were legitimate sites.  Victims then lost money by entered their credit card data, sending checks or giving up banking details.

The sites sold high end designer items from Tiffany & Co, Ugg and jewelry. In some cases the victims actually received the items, but were counterfeit. Like Mom said, if it’s too good to be true it probably is. Of course nobody running the fake sites has been caught.

Criminals set up fake websites and then go through the same process legitimate eTailers do in regards to search engine optimization, search engine marketing and online advertising via adwords. They use key words to boost their rankings on Internet searches to show up along side legitimate sites. These same processes are also being used to infect unsuspecting users with malware.

Many victims who end up on scam sites generally get there via phish emails with offers for high end products for little money.

  1. It’s easy enough to avoid spoofed websites where phishing is the gateway. Common sense says any time you receive an offer via an email automatically be suspect. The same goes with offers via tweets and messages received in any social media. Scammers are committing social media identity theft every day.
  2. If you aren’t familiar with the eTailer don’t even bother clicking the links, especially if it’s a too good to be true offer.
  3. If it’s a known site sending the email and you decide to click links, make sure the address you end up at is in fact the actual domain of the eTailer. Beware of cybersquatting and typosquatting which may look like the domain of the legitimate eTailer.
  4. When placing an order always look for HttpS is the address bar signifying it’s a secure page. Scammer generally won’t take the time to set up secure sites. Note the closed padlock in your browser to back up the HttpS.
  5. Beware of emails coming for eBay scammers. I’m getting 10 a day. The fact is it’s difficult to tell a real from a fake. If you are seeking deals on eBay go right to the site and don’t bother responding to emails. If there is a deal you see in an email search it on eBay.
  6. Whenever you decide to make an eBay purchase look at the eBayers history. eBay is set up on the honor system and if the eBayer is an established seller with great feedback then they should be legitimate.
  7. Don’t worry about credit card fraud. But do pay close attention to your statements. Check them every two weeks online and refute unauthorized charges within 2 billing cycles, otherwise you will pay for an identity thieves gifts.
  8. Don’t use a debit-card online. If your debit card is compromised thats money out of your bank account. Credit cards have more protection and less liability.
  9. Avoid paying by check online/Mailorder. In person is OK. But to an unfamiliar virtual site is not. Once the money is taken from your account and you don’t receive the goods, you are going to have a difficult if not impossible task of getting it back. Use a uniball gel pen that prevents check-washing.
  10. Do business with those you know like and trust. I for one am guilty of buying from eTailers who have the best deals. But I only buy low ticket items from them, generally under $50.00. It’s best to buy high ticket items from eTailers that also have a brick and mortar locations.

Robert Siciliano identity theft speaker discussing holiday scams on Foxes Mike and Juliet Show

Obama; Cybersecurity and Identity Theft Protection Starts at Home

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Whether you realize it or not, your computer is one of the biggest threats to your personal security. The Obama administration believes that your computer is also one of the biggest threats to national security.

The message is: Think before you click. Know who’s on the other side of that instant message. What you say or do in cyberspace stays in cyberspace — for many to see, steal and use against you or your government.

The Internet is incredibly powerful and not particularly secure. It is powerful enough to bring people together, to educating, inform, and make life easier. But it’s also used to hurt, scam, and debilitate in so many ways.

The Pentagon’s computer systems are probed 360 million times per day, and one prominent power company has acknowledged that its networks see up to 70,000 scans per day. Every single day, utilities, banks, retailers and just about every computer network are faced with attacks. Many of these hacks are insignificant. Many are conducted with intent to commit crimes such as espionage, financial data theft, or the destruction of crucial information. The criminal hackers could be cyber-terrorists attempting to destroy the U.S. or its economy, malcontents simply wreaking havoc for its own sake, or opportunists looking for a profit.

The U.S. is a prime target for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that we’ve made mistakes that have many in the world hating us. Then there’s our financial system, which offers instant credit to anyone with a Social Security number. And of course, credit card security is an oxymoron, since anyone can use any credit card at any time. We have a bullseye on us and we put it there.

“Weapons of Mass Disruption” are a growing concern. The U.S. and many other countries are electrically and digitally dependent. Our critical infrastructures, including drinking water, sewer systems, phone lines, banks, air traffic, and government systems, all depend on the electric grid. After a major successful attack we’d be back to the dark ages instantly. No electricity, no computers, no gasoline, no refrigeration, no clean water. Think about when the power goes out in your house for a few hours. We’re stymied.

The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security are hiring thousands of computer experts to protect our networks. But the weakest link in the chain is not the government, but the citizens. Government has lots of work to do, but moms and pops are the most vulnerable. Enterprise networks have become hardened, while small business and the lowly consumer know enough about information security to get hacked. Awareness is key. You are either part of the problem or the solution.

Read this and every possible blog, article and report you have access to so you can stay on top of what is new and ahead of what is next in technology and the security necessary to keep it safe. Build your IT security vocabulary. Protect yourself and your business.

Those steps include:

Use antivirus software, spyware removal, parental controls and firewalls.

Back up your data locally and in the cloud.

Understand the risks associated with the wireless web especially when using unsecured public networks.

Protect your identity too. The most valuable resource you have is your good name. Allowing anyone to pose as you and let them damage your reputation is almost facilitating a crime. Nobody will protect you, except you.

  • Get a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name.
  • And invest in Intelius identity theft protection. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.
  • Visit US-Cert here

Robert Siciliano identity theft speaker discussing the mess of data security on Fox News