**Originally posted on September 24, 2018. Last updated on May 20, 2020.**
After the 2017 unprecedented Equifax data breach, protecting the personal information of consumers has been a lingering hot button. However, not much has happened regarding changes impacting the credit-reporting industry. And, although new U.S. federal laws from September 2018 allow people to freeze and unfreeze their credit at the three major credit bureaus without being charged, it should not be viewed as the ultimate, single solution to protect yourself from identity theft. Here’s why.
Credit Freezes Alone Don’t Address More than 80% of Identity Theft
There’s no argument that a credit freeze, also coined as a “security freeze,” can make it more challenging for cybercriminals and fraudsters to open new credit accounts in your name. But, beware – a free credit freeze may provide consumers with a false sense of security that their personal information is now safe. The fact is credit freezes alone aren’t enough to fully thwart identity thieves. Freezes are limited because they really only help potentially protect against new accounts opened in your name, and new fraudulent account openings are actually one of the rarest types of identity theft out there, affecting only four percent of victims according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
As data breaches grow in ubiquity, consumers, businesses, and anyone who wants to safeguard their Personally Identifiable Information (PII) need a comprehensive, proactive approach that can protect against synthetic identity theft, mobile phone takeovers, utility account compromises, criminal record infringement, tax-related fraud, real estate and title fraud, and so much more. All of these types of fraud make up more than 80% of reported identity theft.
Your New & Existing Credit Accounts are Still at Risk for Identity Theft
Fraudsters may already have enough of your personal information to access your existing bank or credit card accounts. In light of the volume and velocity of today’s data breaches, it’s safe to assume your personal information is out there – perhaps even on the Dark Web. So, the pieces of the puzzle to commit fraud may already exist. Even if you engage in a free credit freeze.
Additionally, a free credit freeze won’t completely stop new credit account openings in your name. It is true that most creditors pull your credit report before granting credit, but it’s not a requirement. And, with free credit freezes, it could even lower credit standards, or entice companies to find new ways to confirm your creditworthiness. In other words, there is no silver bullet.
Consider the Alternatives: Fraud Alert and a Credit Lock
Remember, when you want to open a new credit account you will need to find out which of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) the company uses to pull your credit file. Then, you will want to lift the freeze on that report or you will need to lift the freeze on your record with all three bureaus. Even though a credit freeze is now free, it’s still a bit of a hassle and not quite as empowering as other options.
Here are two options to consider over a credit freeze:
- A Fraud Alert enables you to place the alert on your file with one credit bureau and they share the request with the other two.
- A Credit Lock is free from Equifax and TransUnion. You will still need to sign-up with all three bureaus but the result is instantaneous, where a credit freeze can take anywhere from 15 minutes to up to an hour to enable and disable (which can cause further inconvenience if you are applying for instant credit). The workings of a credit freeze and what you need to be aware of does indeed take some education.
Take Control With Top-Rated ID Theft Protection
In today’s connected world, relying on a free credit freeze or access to check your credit score simply is not enough. Even if you, your family, your employees, your partners – essentially everyone you care about – haven’t been impacted by identity theft, the chances are it’s just a matter of time. The best approach is a layered approach, combining credit monitoring, credit freeze, and identity theft protection to protect what matters most – your identity.
IdentityForce provides the industry’s top-rated identity theft protection. Our team is committed to providing ongoing resources and tools to help you stay protected and aware of the latest scams and trends. The time to protect yourself, your family, and your employees is now. Get started with a Free Trial of IdentityForce for 100% peace of mind.