By, State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt
Have you noticed when you turn on the tv, there always seems to be a new financial scam? We are warned of hackers, identity thieves, or the latest financial cyber threat. In 2019, $8.5 billion was spent on funding cybersecurity. It, unfortunately, has become a priority of mine to ensure my information, and that of my family remains safe. It can be a full-time job keeping passwords safe, monitoring accounts for fraud, and practicing safe shopping while online. The one-piece that typically gets forgotten is protecting our credit file information? Our credit files accessible through Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are a gold mine to those “naughty” folks.
When you freeze your credit report lenders can’t pull your credit report or your credit score unless you have provided the credit bureau a password to unlock your information. Freezing your credit account is easy, free and effective in preventing identity theft.
If for example, someone wants access to your account or wants to open a new credit card in your name, they would need to run a credit check. The credit card company would then notify you to “unfreeze” your account so they could do a credit check. That would be your warning that someone is trying to open an account in your name. Without a credit check, no one can open a new account or take out credit in your name. A credit freeze can be used at any time to help prevent fraudulent activity. A credit freeze is regulated by law. Should anything go wrong, you are protected from any financial liability.
Perhaps you are buying a new car or renting an apartment and need to “unfreeze” your credit file to enable them to check your credit history. You can do that immediately on any computer or phone with your PIN or password.
It is important to freeze your credit information at each credit bureau and don’t forget the kids. It is important to protect them and their financial future too.
To freeze your credit or seek additional information, contact the three credit bureaus by calling the following: Equifax 1-800-349-9960, Experian 1-888-397-3742 and TransUnion 1-888-909-8872.
Putting in the time and effort today to protect ourselves and our family's financial information will be worth every minute when protecting ourselves from financial fraud and theft.