We will soon have a new, albeit cumbersome, weapon in the fight against identity theft. According to an article on Bankrate.com, by next month people in all 50 states will be able to freeze their credit file at all three of the major credit bureaus. Everyone already has the right to place a fraud alert on their file for free, which notifies potential creditors that an applicant may be using a stolen identity. A credit freeze goes further, preventing potential creditors from receiving an applicant’s credit report or score, making them less likely to grant credit. However, freezing your account takes a bit of work. You have to contact each of the bureaus (Transunion, Experian, and Equifax) individually, and in most cases, by mail. There also may be a fee, depending on where you live.
It’s amazing how much the cards are still stacked against us when it comes to managing our financial identity. Having to mail in a request for a credit freeze seems antiquated (although you can put a fraud alert on your file over the phone), and I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t like having to pay for my credit score.
When it comes to protecting our financial identity, the best practice is to zealously protect your Social Security Number. Don’t use it as an ID for any online accounts, don’t put it on your driver’s license or checks, and check your credit report every year for any errors or suspicious entries. At least the report is free.