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?
Let’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.