How can I protect my personal and financial information
from credit fraud and identity theft?
In today's digital world, massive computer hacks and data
breaches are common occurrences. And chances are, your personal or financial
information is now susceptible to being used for credit fraud or identity
theft. If you discover that you are the victim of either of these crimes, you
should consider placing a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit report to
A credit freeze prevents new credit and accounts from being
opened in your name. Once you obtain a credit freeze, creditors won't be
allowed to access your credit report and therefore cannot offer new credit.
This helps prevent identity thieves from applying for credit or opening
fraudulent accounts in your name.
To place a credit freeze on your credit
report, you must contact each credit reporting agency separately either by
phone or by filling out an online form. Keep in
mind that a credit freeze is permanent and stays on your credit report until
you unfreeze it. This is important, because if you want to apply for credit
with a new financial institution in the future, open a new bank account, or
even apply for a job or rent an apartment, you will need to "unlock" or "thaw"
the credit freeze with each credit reporting agency.
A less drastic option is to place a fraud alert on your
credit report. A fraud alert requires creditors to take extra steps to verify
your identity before extending any existing credit or issuing new credit in
your name. To request a fraud alert, you only have to contact one of the three
major reporting agencies, and the information will be passed along to the other
Recently, as part of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief
and Consumer Protection Act of 2018, Congress made several changes to credit
rules that benefit consumers. Under the new law, consumers are now allowed to
"freeze" and "unfreeze" their credit reports free of charge at all three of the
major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and
In addition, the law extends initial fraud alert protection to one full year.
Previously, fraud alerts expired after 90 days unless they were renewed.