Beginning in September 2018, consumers will have easier access to one of the most effective tools for protecting themselves against identity theft without having to reach into their pockets to pay a fee.
Under the recently enacted Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, you will be able to place a freeze on your credit file for free. Previously, in order to freeze your credit and prevent anyone from running credit checks on you, opening accounts or securing loans in your name without first obtaining your permission, you were required to separately contact and pay as much as $10 to each of the three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The time-consuming and cumbersome process also required you to pay an additional fee to lift or “thaw” a credit freeze already in effect.
Experts agree that a credit freeze is the strongest layer of protection you can put into place to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. Unlike a credit lock, which is merely an agreement between you and the reporting agency, a credit freeze is covered by federal and state laws and provides reassurance that you will not be held liable for any charges or losses caused by fraudulent activities. However, a freeze should not be your only line of defense.
It is also valuable to create a fraud alert on your credit report to ensure that lenders take extra steps to verify your identification before extending credit to you or anyone claiming to be you. However, unlike a credit freeze, fraud alerts will not prevent potential lenders from seeing your credit history. To create a free fraud alert with all three credit bureaus, you need only contact one of the three reporting agencies. While fraud alert will expire after 90 days, you can renew them continuously.
Finally, it is critical that you regularly monitor your financial accounts on a regular basis to identify potential issues before they become big problems. As an added layer of protection, you may want to create fraud alerts directly with the financial institutions that issued credit cards to you.
Similarly, as time-consuming as it may seem, you should check your credit report throughout the year. By law, you are entitled to receive one free credit report every year from each of the three credit bureaus. You can easily access these reports for free online at www.annualcreditreport.com. Once you receive a report, you should scan it for abnormal activity and confirm that the accounts listed are for credit cards or other lending instruments that you in fact opened.
With the expanding scope of data breaches and increasing frequency of identity theft, consumers must take precautions to protect their personal information and remain vigilant against the often sophisticated schemes that fraudsters employ. Following are 10 tips to keep in mind at all times.
About the Author: Jamel Gordon, CFP®, is a financial planner with Provenance Wealth Advisors, an Independent Registered Investment advisor affiliated with Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors and Accountants and a registered representative with Raymond James Financial Services. He can be reached at (954) 712-8888 or via email at email@example.com.
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Jamel Gordon, CFP® is a registered representative of and offers securities through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC.
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