If you are worried about your data being used to open up fraudulent credit in your name, I* would suggest placing a freeze on your credit report. Here is some information about how to go about doing that:

 

Security freezes, also known as credit freezes, restrict access to your credit file, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. You can freeze and unfreeze your credit file for free. You also can get a free freeze for your children who are under 16. And if you are someone’s guardian, conservator or have a valid power of attorney, you can get a free freeze for that person, too.

 

You will need to contact all three of the nationwide credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you request a freeze online or by phone, the agency must place the freeze within one business day. If you request a lift of the freeze, the agency must lift it within one hour. If you make your request by mail, the agency must place or lift the freeze within three business days after it gets your request. You also can lift the freeze temporarily without a fee.

 

Contact the national credit bureaus to request fraud alerts, credit freezes (also known as security freezes), and opt outs from pre‑screened credit offers.

 

    Equifax

    Equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services

    800-685-1111

 

    Experian

    Experian.com/help

    888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)

 

    Transunion

    TransUnion.com/credit-help

    888-909-8872

 

I recommend folks placing freezes set aside at least 30 minutes to make sure to focus on this. You will need to create usernames and passwords, and each credit bureau has a different process. Make sure to keep all this information in a safe place, so when you need to "thaw" your credit, say for a new line of credit to buy your dream boat, you have the information on hand. Final thought on freezes, a freeze does not affect your existing credit. You will be able to continue to use that, it affects only new credit.

 

Additionally, here are some steps you can take to limit your exposure to data threats and to protect yourself: https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/guide-to-preventing-fraud.html

 

 

*Part of the Ask the Expert series with Amy Nofziger on Identity Theft and Cybersecurity Scams, October 2019. Learn more tips and/or share your stories in our Scams & Fraud forum.

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