Freeze Out Identity Thieves

Are you serious about protecting yourself from identity theft—the world’s fastest growing crime? 

If you are, starting tomorrow, you’ll have the ultimate tool to do it. It’s called a "credit freeze."  Effective Oct. 31, 2007, all three major credit bureaus will offer credit freezes to any individual who requests one.

A credit freeze, in effect, places an electronic padlock on your credit report.  No one can review your credit report until you remove the padlock. 

If an identity thief tries to apply for credit in your name, he’ll be in for a rude surprise. That’s because if a company can’t review your credit report, it’s very unlikely to issue you (or an impostor) credit.  A credit freeze eliminates identity theft at its source—the ability of a criminal to obtain credit fraudulently.

Let’s say that an identity thief steals enough information to apply for credit in your name.  That might include your name, address, birthday, and Social Security number—all easily retrievable over the Internet.

Next, the thief uses this information to obtain a driver’s license or other official identity document containing your name, but the thief’s photo. Then, he visits a car dealership or other seller of "big-ticket" items.  Finally, he test drives a luxury car and tells the salesman to "charge it"—to you.

With a credit freeze, the thief’s application for credit in your name will be turned down cold! But without a credit freeze, he just might drive off the lot in a brand-new car, leaving you to pay the bill.

To freeze your credit file, send a letter via certified mail to the following addresses:

  • Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
  • Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348
  • Trans Union Consumer Protection Center, P.O Box 6790, Fullerton CA 92634

The letter must contain your full name, middle initial, and generation (Jr., Sr., etc.), your date of birth, your current address, and any previous addresses for the past two years.  You’ll also need to include a copy of a government-issued photo ID card; a utility bill or bank statement with your name on it; and your Social Security Number. Finally, include a US$10 check or money order per credit bureau.

Each credit bureau will send you a letter confirming the credit freeze.  You’ll also receive a PIN code that you can use to "unfreeze" your account if you want to buy a new car, apply for a mortgage, etc.  "Unfreezing" costs another US$10 per credit bureau.

Is there a downside?  Yes, but it’s a small one.  If you lose your PIN, unfreezing your account may take as long as 10 days.  (With the PIN, the unfreezing is supposed to occur in a matter of hours or even minutes).  But, a 10-day delay isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re prone to making impulse buying decisions.

For hundreds more suggestions on how to protect your privacy and wealth, click here.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Nestmann

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