October 04, 2018
One of the best ways to protect yourself from identify thieves is now free of charge. Beginning in late September, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion began offering consumers the ability to place and lift credit freezes on their credit reports without imposing any fee. In the past the credit bureaus could charge $10 for each credit freeze on/off move.
Now that there is no cost to protect yourself, what are you waiting for?
Putting credit freezes on your financial history at the credit bureaus makes it as close to impossible for a thief to use your financial identity to pose as you and get credit cards or loans in your name. With a freeze, no business can check your credit report. So even if a thief has enough information to try and pose as you, lenders are unlikely to green light a card or loan application if they can’t check a credit report.
Don’t think you need to worry about this? Please don’t be so foolish. If you haven’t yet had a run in with a data breach, or actually been a victim of identity theft, consider yourself lucky. The new free credit freeze is a result of last year’s massive Equifax data breach that impacted more than 145 million accounts. As much as we want to hope this won’t happen again, the reality is that they will continue to occur. One silver lining of the massive Equifax breach is that Congress passed a law that requires the credit bureaus to stop charging for credit freezes.
When you place a freeze, businesses can’t check your credit even when it is you applying for a new credit card account or loan. I think that’s actually a good speed bump. You shouldn’t need anyone to check your credit report on super-short notice. C’mon, how often are you applying for a mortgage, car loan, or credit card?
When you are shopping for something that requires a credit check, all you need to do is contact the credit bureaus and have the freeze lifted. Then when your credit check is complete, you can put the freeze back in place. All for free.
You must contact Equifax, Experian and TransUnion separately to request a credit freeze, and to lift the freeze. Please use the links here; they go directly to the page at each credit bureau where you can put a freeze in place, for free. Credit bureaus have all sorts of services they offer—for a fee. There is absolutely zero reason to pay a penny for using a credit freeze to protect your identity.
Answer Yes or No to the follow statements.
I pay all my credit card bills in full each month.
I have an eight-month emergency savings fund separate from my checking or other bank accounts.
The car I am driving was paid for with cash, or a loan that was no more than three years, and I sure didn’t lease!
I am contributing at least 10% of my gross salary to a retirement plan at work, or I am saving at least that much in an IRA and/or regular taxable account.
I have a long-term asset allocation plan for my retirement investments, and once a year I check to see if I need to do any rebalancing to stay on target with my allocation goals.
I have term life insurance to provide protection to those who are dependent on my income.
I have a will, a trust, an advance directive (living will), and have appointed someone to be my health care proxy.
So how did you do?
If you answered yes to every item, congratulations. If you are working on improving on a few items, I say congratulations as well.
As long as you are comitted to truly creating financial security, I applaud you. If that means you are paying down your credit card balances, or are building up your emergency fun with automated payments, that’s more than fine. You are on your way!
But if you found yourself saying No to any of those questions, and you’re not working on moving to Yes, then I want you to stand in your truth. No matter how good you feel, you have some work to do before you can honestly know what you are on solid financial ground.