As consumers and entrepreneurs, it is important that we maintain and monitor our credit reports and score. Unfortunately, financial identity theft is a continuing challenge affecting many of us. The sophistication of these cyber criminals and frequency of identity theft is a nation wide problem.
Credit freezes are viewed as the most effective way to combat identity theft. Approximately 15% of all identity theft cases in the US are due to opening a new account, according to Federal Trade Commission. This form of theft occurs when a criminal opens credit in another individual’s name. In the credit origination process, access to a credit report is critical for a lender to make a risk assessment. Because a credit freeze effectively stops any access to a credit report, it places an effective block in the process of issuing credit. Individuals who freeze their credit reports must therefore unfreeze their reports before they apply for credit for themselves and then refreeze after the credit has been provided. This may seem to be cumbersome and does require a fee each time a freeze, unfreeze and refreeze is done; the consequences, costs, time and aggravation of dealing with financial identity theft far exceeds the effort to freeze and unfreeze our credit information.
To effectively protect our credit, we must go online to the three credit bureaus: http://www.experian.com, http://www.equifax.com, and http://www.transunion.com to request a credit freeze that locks our data at the consumer reporting agency until an individual gives permission for a release. Today, most states have passed laws requiring agencies to permit consumers to freeze their credit.
The fees associated with freezing our credit reports differ from state to state, but where state laws do not dictate more favorable pricing, the cost of freezing and unfreezing a credit report is $10.
The importance of maintaining an accurate and favorable credit report and score is important to all of us and especially to business people as we acquire new suppliers, potential alliances and partners and credit. I strongly recommend you consider the freeze option to protect your family and you from financial identity theft.