Freeze your credit to fight off ID theft
BY PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
6/20/12 at 3:06 AM
Larry Skidmore, a 67-year-old Air National Guard retiree - after 26 years in uniform - lost his wallet May 21 while bicycling in his Jenks housing addition. Noticing it missing on returning home, he peddled back along his route, but it was gone.
He called and canceled the one credit card he thought was in his wallet but didn't realize another card had been there also. Two days later, someone forging his name put $100 worth of gas in a vehicle at a Jenks gas station.
Larry canceled that card as well but is now worried the thief will be able to use his credit card information to open another credit card account or even to take out a line of credit in his name.
We remind everyone about "security freezes" - those notations on your credit reports instructing credit bureau staff not to release information in your file to anyone other than your credit card issuers and users you already do business with.
Federal credit freeze: The Federal Trade Commission, in its guide, "Fighting back against identity theft: Credit freezes," ( tulsaworld.com/FTCcreditfreeze) says, "Many states have laws that let consumers "freeze" their credit - in other words, letting a consumer restrict access to his or her credit report. If you place a credit freeze, potential creditors and other third parties will not be able to get access to your credit report unless you temporarily lift the freeze. This means that it's unlikely that an identity thief would be able to open a new account in your name. Placing a credit freeze does not affect your credit score - nor does it keep you from getting your free annual credit report." See tulsaworld.com/acr
Oklahoma credit freeze: The Oklahoma Consumer Report Security Freeze Act of 2007 ( tulsaworld.com/OKsecurityfreeze) covers all consumers.
It says such freezes should be placed without fees for "identity theft victims with investigative reports" or for "seniors age 65 years and older." All others must pay $10 to place such freezes, $10 to lift them temporarily (such as before seeking credit cards or loans) or to remove them altogether. Such freezes remain permanently until removal is requested by the consumer.
Codified Title 24 Section 150, the act defines "security freeze" as "a notice placed in a consumer report of a consumer, at the request of the consumer and subject to certain exceptions, that prohibits the consumer reporting agency from releasing the consumer report or credit score of the consumer relating to the opening of new accounts or the extension of credit." The exceptions include any law enforcement agency, holders of liens, administrators of accounts the consumer has signed contracts for, etc.
Under the act, consumers may have their credit files frozen for a $10 fee at each credit reporting agency. Such freezing is free to anyone who is already the victim of identity theft as long as they submit police reports with their initial freeze requests. You will need to place a security freeze separately with each of the three major credit reporting bureaus if you want the freeze on all of your credit files.
Credit data locked: Placing a credit freeze on your account is like putting your credit information in a safe. This information can't be checked by anyone except law enforcement authorities or one of your creditors, such as your mortgage company. No one else from the outside can check your credit or use the report's information to open credit accounts.
With a freeze in place, when an ID thief applies for credit in your name, using his address, the creditor won't be able to check your credit history through the credit bureau that has frozen your credit report. As a result, the application for credit will be rejected. After the freeze is in place, when you wish to apply for credit or to let someone run a background check on you for employment or insurance purposes, you must first call the credit bureaus, recite your personal identification number (PIN) and name the person or agency to be inquiring about you. You have the option of unfreezing the reports for a specific period of time - one day, one week, etc. - the time in which the inquiry is likely to be made.
'Fraud alert' red-flags your account
Placing freezes on your credit reports prevents lenders and others from accessing your credit report, preventing them from extending credit to identity thieves, says the TransUnion website tulsaworld.com/TransUcreditfreezes An alternative step is the "fraud alert."
Fraud alerts: If know you are, or suspect you might soon become, the victim of fraud or identity theft, place a fraud alert on your credit report to alert potential creditors or lenders. When alerted, they must take steps to protect you. Once you place a fraud alert, you can choose to remove it anytime online.
A fraud alert is a cautionary flag placed on your credit file to notify lenders and others that they should take special precautions to ensure your identity before extending credit. When you place a fraud alert, you can provide a phone number for lenders to contact you for verification that the party applying is actually you, not a thief.
Initial fraud alerts: When you place a fraud alert on your credit report with any one of the three major credit reporting companies, that company will notify the other two and fraud alerts will also be placed in their files on you. An "initial fraud alert" lasts 90 days and may be renewed. Fraud alerts are available at no charge to consumers who believe they are already victims.
Extended fraud alerts: These are placed when you are the victim of fraud or ID theft and requires a copy of a police identity theft report When placed with one credit reporting company, it will then notify the other two CRCs to place similar alerts.
Such alerts entitle you to two free credit reports at all three CRCs in the first 12 months after posting, then one per year thereafter at all three CRCs for seven years.
Active duty military alert: You are in the military and want to minimize your risk of fraud/ID theft while you are deployed. Place an alert with one CRC which will then notify the other two CRCs to place similar alerts.
Original Print Headline: Put credit on ice for protection
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Larry Skidmore stands with the bike he was riding when he lost his wallet. In the background, Jack Pierce installs a new steel door on Skidmore's home. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World