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How to stop identity thieves dead in their tracks
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Put Your Credit On Lock Down! How to stop identity thieves dead in their tracks.
Credit card and Identity theft are a great cause for concern for anyone who has a good credit rating and credit cards that they use regularly. Often thieves will steal someone's identity and then go on to run up a host of bills in that person's name. By the time a person realizes what has taken place, it is often too late to do much about it. So the real question is how can you fight back against these criminals and keep your good name intact as well as your credit and money.
Recently the right to freeze credit reports and stopping credit from being issued in a person's name has become available. By locking down your credit, nobody can get your credit file or details to run up credit in your name leaving you to deal with the bill.
Who can lock down their credit?
Almost anyone can lock down his or her credit. Since 2003, when California allowed its residents to lock down their credit reports, other states have began to follow suit including New Jersey, Louisiana, Nevada, Connecticut, Maine, North Carolina and Colorado. Other states such as Texas, Illinois, Vermont, and Washington will only allow victims of identity theft or those who have fallen victim to a security breach to freeze their credit reports. If your area is not listed here, then by inquiring at any one of the three major credit-reporting agencies you should be able to find out what your state allows.
Anyone can ask the major credit reporting companies to place a fraud alert on a credit report. How this benefits you is that the company alerts you when credit is requested and you are asked permission to proceed with the credit. There is one problem with this method and that is creditors are not required to check the alert or even ask your permission.
A credit freeze takes the next step in security enforcement. With a credit freeze nobody can open any type of credit line under your name or even gain access to your credit file. What this means is that your credit details are off limits to everyone even credit lenders, insurance companies and potential employers.
How does a credit freeze work?
Credit freeze is quite simple really, but very effective. What happens is, when credit is requested, for example a credit card, cell phone or even a personal loan, the company that is considering giving the credit will call one of the three credit reporting companies to ask for access to your credit file. If you have already requested a freeze on your file then the credit reporting company will tell the creditor that they don't have access to the file as it is frozen. You can just about guarantee that no creditor in their right mind will proceed with a line of credit that has a frozen file.
What if I want credit?
If you want credit or you need a background check for a potential employer, it is not a problem at all. What actually happens is that the three major credit reporting companies give you a personal identification number, or a PIN, that allows you to freeze and unfreeze your credit report when you need to.
If a criminal manages to get your name, address, social security number and even your birthday, with the protection of a credit freeze they don't stand a chance at getting credit, no matter how good they are.
How do I get a Credit Freeze on my files?
In order to lock down your credit, you will need to contact each of the three credit reporting companies. If you are the victim of identity theft and are reporting from a police or law enforcement agency, the fee is usually waived. Other residents who are not under direct identity theft lock down may be asked to pay a fee to each of the three credit reporting agencies.
This fee is usually quite low and, considering the benefits of having a credit freeze on your account, the few dollars that are spent are well worth it for the piece of mind that you will have knowing that your credit, good name and assets are locked down and secured at all times. None of the credit reporting agencies charge to have credit report freezes lifted, however, there will be charges for those who want to temporarily lift their freeze, even if they are victims of identity theft.
What do the credit reporting agencies need?
Each of the three credit reporting companies require a certain procedure to be followed in order to have your credit report frozen. Below are the requirements needed for each company:
Equifax requires that all communication with regards to this procedure be sent via certified mail. In the body of the letter you are required to state your name, address, including previous addresses, social security number and your date of birth.
Payment must be made by check, money order or by a credit card. If a credit card is the chosen option, then the name of the card, account number and expiration date must be included. ID theft victims should also put a valid copy of a police report, investigation report or a valid complaint that has been filed with a law enforcement agency.
Experian requires that you send all communication via certified mail. In the letter you should include your name, including middle name, and any other identifying names, for example, Jr. or Sr. Also you will need to include a current address, and previous addresses going back as far as five years, social security number, date of birth, and proof of address. Proof of addresscan be in the form of drivers licenses, bills for utilities such as power or water, bank statements or insurance statements.
Money should be paid either by check, money order or credit card. If paying by credit card, you should include the name of the card, account number and expiry date. Victims of ID theft need to have current copies of the police report, investigation report or a valid complaint that has been filed with a law enforcement agency.
Communication can be sent either by regular or certified mail, although certified mail is always a safer option, as you know that the communication has been received safely by the company. You will need to include your full name, including middle initials and any other parts to your name for example Jr. or Sr. You will need to provide your current mailing address and any other addresses dating back to the last five years, date of birth and social security numbers are also required.
Payment can be made by check, money order or credit card. If paying by a credit card, you will need to include your name, account number and expiration date on your card. If you have been the victim of ID theft you will need to include your police report, investigation report or the complaint that you have filed with a law enforcement agency.
Why the credit companies don't want you to freeze your files
There is a lot of controversy over the new interest in consumers protecting their credit by freezing it until they want to use it. Many of the credit companies claim that it will be an inconvenience to consumers, while others are saying it is much like waiting to have a car accident before letting people put seatbelts into their cars.
It appears that the biggest fear of the credit companies is the loss of control over consumers. Those who have exercised their rights and used locked down credit safety measures are unable to buy on impulse, because they have to unlock their credit before purchasing. This could mean an end to impulsive buying over the weekends and fewer purchases for credit companies. Devastating for credit companies, but an added safety feature for those who lock down their credit.
Is there anyone who can help?
There are companies out there that offer you the alternative of not having to do a lock down yourself. They also monitor your credit situation regularly for you and help you get credit when needed, for a fee. One of the great things about these companies is they stand by their promise to protect your credit by insuring each person if they do become a victim of ID theft and loose money because of the companies negligence. If you are busy, or don't want to lock down your credit on your own these companies are a great way to protect your identity and valuables.
Don't be caught by criminals who prey on honest citizens by stealing their identity and running up expensive credit debt. Fight back, use a credit freeze and rest assured that your assets and credit is safe from theft.
About the Author
Liz Roberts is a loan consultant with NewHorizon Finance and has been providing consumers and business owners with financing since 1989.
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2009-10-07, 18:39:10 (updated: 2009-10-07, 18:39:36)
BadDog from Madison, United States