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Bankruptcy Law Blog

Friday, September 15, 2017

Freezing Accounts To Stop Identity Theft

Earlier this year, we blogged about the importance of checking your credit score. Well, now it is more important to do so than ever. One of the big three credit reporting agencies has been hacked, putting the personal information of around 143 million Americans at risk.

Earlier this month Equifax announced that hackers breached its system between May and July of this year, and the information of almost half of all Americans was exposed. They have released an online tool you can use to see if your information was stolen.

Equifax is allowing people who had their information stolen to sign up for their credit monitoring service, but it will only provide that service for free for a limited amount of time. After a while, they will start charging you a monthly fee to monitor whether their mistake has allowed a criminal to steal your identity.

A credit monitoring service like the one Equifax runs is not a bad thing to pay for if you have the means to do so since many credit monitoring services also help you out if your identity is stolen, but there are ways to monitor your credit yourself more economically.

Keep A Close Watch On Your Accounts

The most important thing to do to prevent identity theft is to pay close attention to all the accounts you have open – banking, saving, credit cards, store accounts, everything. If you see a charge you don’t recognize, report it immediately. Scammers who have your account information will often make a small purchase to see if you notice. If nothing happens, they will then make larger and more frequent purchases.

Order Your Credit Reports

As we mentioned above, it is now more important than ever to order your yearly free credit report from the big three reporting agencies - Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Do this each year, either all at once, or by spreading your requests out so you get a report from a different company every few months.

The federal government recommends getting your report (or reports if you want to get all three at once) at AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. 

Freeze!

If the Equifax tool says your information was stolen, or you are just generally worried about identity theft, you may also want to consider freezing your credit report.

A freeze blocks anyone from accessing your credit reports without your permission. Nobody except you, your existing creditors and their debt collectors, or the government will be able to look at your frozen credit report without your explicit permission. This is an effective way of stopping identity thieves from setting up accounts in your name because most lenders won’t open a new account without doing a credit report check. When a lender runs into a frozen account, they will tell would-be identity thieves to get lost.

Freezes are effective, but they are also kind of a hassle since they will prevent you from opening any new accounts unless you thaw or unfreeze your reports. And freezes are not free. Each of the big three charges a small fee for putting a freeze in place, removing a freeze, or temporarily thawing a freeze.

It is also important to note that a freeze will not be effective if an identity thief already has your credit card or bank account information. Freezes only block new accounts from being open. A freeze will not block you or a thief from using an existing account.

To put a freeze in place, visit ExperianEquifax and TransUnion or call them: Equifax (1-800-349-9960), Experian (1-888-397-3742) or TransUnion (1-888-909-8872).

 


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Padgett and Robertson assist clients with Bankruptcy, Personal Bankruptcy, Consumer Bankruptcy, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy and The New Bankruptcy Law in Mobile, Alabama and throughout southern Alabama. Alabama State Bar Association Regulations require the following: "No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers." 11 U.S.C. 528 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code requires the following: "We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.”



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Alabama State Bar Association Regulations require the following: "No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers." 11 U.S.C. 528 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code requires the following: "We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.”