Inside TDV - The Data Vault Blog
Protecting Your Credit Score Against Identity Theft
Almost everyone knows a person that has had their life affected by identity theft, whether it’s something as simple as having to have a new debit card issued out of precaution or something more serious like compromised bank accounts. While common knowledge advises you to change card numbers and watch account statements for suspicious activity after an incident (such as losing a wallet) many people forget to monitor a lesser known metric: your credit score.
In our modern society where information is accessible within seconds, these digital “scores” mean more than even when it comes to getting approval for new loans, mortgages, or other lines of credit. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts these credit bureaus cannot personally monitor every person’s score to ensure legitimacy; leading to fraudulent purchases remaining on record long after they have been revoked by other institutions. However, there is one thing that the consumer can do to combat this issue but the bureaus will not usually notify you of this option.
What we’re referring to is a so called ‘credit freeze‘. Freezing your score allows you to put a lock on your credit report so that it can only be accessed via personal identification number, known only to you. Each credit agency will give you a unique PIN, and with this added security layer, thieves won’t be able to establish new credit in your name, even if they obtain all your personal information. Though this option was previously only accessible to confirmed victims of identity theft, all three major credit agencies (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion) have recently loosened the restrictions on it’s availability. For a small fee, usually between $3-10, each agency will lock your account down until you decide otherwise; and then can “thaw” it for another small fee. Currently issued cards operate normally under this status, as it only affects new requests for authorization.
Though this tactic is a good idea for most consumers if circumstances require, the cost of constantly freezing and unfreezing their credit score keeps it from being good advice for day-to-day protection. If you need security outside of known identity theft incidents, utilizing secure shredding services for the destruction of sensitive documents and keeping a close eye on charges to accounts is a much better option. Through vigilant monitoring and flexible security techniques, we can move towards a more secure future for everyone!