April 15, 2023
Most of us know someone that has been a victim of identity theft. It may even be you. It can be exhausting, time consuming and financially damaging to fix.
I have been a victim, myself. My data was in a couple different breaches several years ago with major corporations and we got free credit monitoring for a few years. We got lucky, nothing really happened during the coverage time.
Then, a couple of years ago, I got a strange call about a checking account I had opened online with a bank I had never heard of. They were offering to help me get started since I hadn’t used my account yet.
I hadn’t opened the account.
We quickly got it reported to the fraud department, and it was shut down. That was great.
Unfortunately, since there was no monetary damage done, there was no police report to file.
If only that were the end of it. Within a month, I had 3 more banks contact me, same thing–a checking account opened, not used. One didn’t even call me, just mailed me checks.
All three were remedied with a phone call to the fraud department.
I started researching and found out that the best thing I could do was freeze my credit, and put a fraud alert on it due to the activity, which would require me (or anyone pretending to be me) to visit a branch in person with photo ID to complete the process.
This has worked pretty well for me in the last few years.
Every 4-6 months, the activity starts up again–I’m guessing the “company” that purchased my information just sold it on to the next company and they are trying again. I have had more than a dozen attempts at opening bank accounts in my name–and only bank accounts.
It has been a very scary process, especially since I learned that there is no way to monitor bank accounts opened in your name if they are not credit cards or loans. Bank accounts ONLY appear on your credit when you are delinquent and the bank files a complaint on your credit. Which means there really is no way to monitor for this type of activity.
Prevention is the only way, but since we use credit for homes, vehicles, credit cards and bank accounts, it can be challenging. Credit freeze has been the best in our research, including talking to fraud department experts.
Freezing your credit is completely free and anything that tries to run your credit will get denied and some sort of contact the customer response.
Should I need to “thaw” my credit for something, it’s pretty easy, and as long as it isn’t too frequent, it’s free. You can choose which agency to thaw and for how long, so when I’ve needed it, I just communicate with the finance person that it is frozen, find out which agency, or agencies, they use, and when they will run it, so it is only available for 24 hours or less.
If you freeze your credit, there’s a few things to know.
First, freeze with all 3 agencies (Transunion, Experian, and Equifax). They can easily be found online. Their website set up and process varies, but you put in your information and freeze it. You will need to create a password and you’ll get an ID code that cannot be requested any other way, so you’ll want it someplace to safeguard and find when you need it. Watch out for their other monitoring or distracting options for other services that cost money, you don’t need them for freezing, but explore them if you are looking for other options. Be mindful that, for your free annual credit report, frozen credit may impact this.
There are many services out there that charge a monthly fee for protection to monitor your credit. These can be a great service for watching and handling AFTER something happens, and they will help repair it, but they don’t prevent it. Only freezing your credit does.
We have found this to be very successful, and, since financing is an extra step, it has helped keep us from impulse purchases, and get rid of those credit card preapprovals that came in the mail all the time. It has also given us peace of mind that there will be limited damage.
Should something make it through an application process, the fraud department sees my alert and activity and quickly verifies what I’m saying and can reverse it. A huge help when the attacker hit my actual bank and shut down all my accounts–which coincided with their phone lines being down. That was a scary few hours.
My bank is still able to monitor my credit score since it isn’t actually running my credit, so I am still able to see activity on my score as it changes month to month.
What steps are you taking to protect your credit and financial security?
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