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Protect Yourself from Credit Fraud

Posted on October 20, 2017

In the wake of the recent Equifax data breach that compromised the personal information of up to 143 million people, credit fraud has once again become top of mind for many consumers. While industry experts will say that it’s virtually impossible to fully protect yourself against identify fraud, which can include things like someone obtaining a drivers license in your name, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from credit fraud.

Credit Report Security Freezes – a Simple Step to Protection
One of the easiest steps is to establish security freezes at each of the three credit bureaus. These are the organizations that track your credit history and assign your credit score, which then financial services companies like credit cards and banks, as well as apartment rental agencies and car sales companies, use to determine whether to extend you credit.

A security freeze on your credit report tells the credit bureaus not to release your credit information to anyone who requests it other than you, which will be a red flag to any inquirer and most likely stop the credit from being fraudulently issued. When you do need to obtain credit for yourself, you’ll need to lift the security freeze so the company you’re applying with can access the information they need to approve your application. You can then, of course, reestablish the security freeze.

Setting Up Your Security Freezes
Setting up a security freeze at each of the credit bureaus takes a little time, as you’ll need to visit all three – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – and complete the relevant personal information, in some cases creating a personal account. The good news for Colorado residents is that establishing the freeze is free (costs are set on a state-by-state basis) at all three credit bureaus.

Removing Your Security Freezes
You can lift your security freeze at any time when you need to obtain credit, such as a car or home loan or new credit card, and then reestablish the freeze once that credit transaction is completed.

Lifting the security freezes typically carries a fee: 
• at Experian, removing it either temporarily or permanently will cost $10 for Colorado residents;
• at Equifax, the fee to lift the freeze is also typically $10 regardless of whether you are a victim of fraud,  unless you’re only lifting it for a single company in which case it’s $12;
• at TransUnion, if you’ve not been a victim of fraud, there’s a $10 fee; fraud victims can lift the freeze at no charge, as can consumers over 65.  TransUnion also offers a free service called TrueIdentity, and a comparison of features between TrueIdentity and a credit freeze for consumers to decide the right service for them.

Subscription Monitoring Services
Subscription monitoring services take protection a step further, alerting you when a potentially fraudulent credit request is made, and in some cases then pursuing the event and reimbursing you for any losses. The credit bureaus offer such services, as do free credit monitoring services like Credit Karma and the well-advertised company LifeLock that charges a monthly fee. LifeLock’s service “scans, alerts, restores and reimburses” its customers, though in December 2015 the company paid $100 million in restitution “to settle a Federal Trade Commission claim accusing the identity-protection company of running false ads that overstated the strength of its safeguards.” That same month, in an article about the restitution by the FTC, the agency recommended that, “If you’re concerned about protecting your personal information, you may consider paying for identity theft protection services. But before you pay any fees, evaluate the company and its track record.”

On Tap Credit Union’s Solutions
On Tap Credit Union recommends that all of our members take their credit and identity protection seriously. We’ve introduced our Lock It Card Controltm security feature, as well as new credit cards with EMV chips. Our Financial Advocates are also here to help you with any questions you have – contact them in person at one of our branches or call us at 303-279-6414.

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