Not a cold snap, but a credit freeze.
In the wake of Equifax’s not so very timely announcement of a data breach of sensitive personal information of some 143M Americans, it’s time for you take more personal control of your information. Do so with a credit freeze. It’s relatively simple, inexpensive and increasingly necessary.
What is a credit freeze, what will it mean to you and how does it help?
A credit freeze locks up your credit file making it much more difficult for breachers to gain access and use your information for their gain. The big three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union, all have a mechanism to freeze your credit. It varies by the state you reside in, so Google “Credit Freeze_________” and insert your state.
Generally there is a small fee to freeze your credit, after which you’ll get a PIN that adds a double layer of protection. You will use this PIN to thaw your credit file if you need to apply for a new credit line, mortgage, car loan, etc. Again, a small fee is generally required.
What it means to you is what I term, “Sleep better at night” stuff. In our increasingly data driven world, your personal information is increasingly accessible by crafty hackers intent on harm. A credit freeze is an additional layer of protection, far superior to mere credit monitoring.
How it helps is adding a protection safeguard to your personal information. It’s like two-step verification or 2-factor Authorization that is widely suggested by so many financial institutions and social media companies. Without your PIN, credit thieves cannot open new lines of credit in your name.
One of the best and most informative sources of information on credit freezes is Clark Howard.
An additional note, the greatest challenge to credit fraud and identity theft is not the immediate damage, but the restoration process. Many homeowner’s insurance policies include credit and identity restoration service. Check it out, ask your agent. This is cheap and valuable insurance.