There is one identity theft victim in the U.S. every two seconds according to the Michigan Attorney General’s office. Data breaches have become common place in today’s world. One of the biggest recent breaches happened last year when the credit-monitoring agency Equifax was hacked and more than 143 million Americans’ data was exposed.
One way to protect yourself from future data breaches: freeze your credit. When you freeze your credit, no one can access your credit and open up a card or account in your name. It used to cost $10 per credit reporting agency and since there are three big agencies, it cost a total of $30 to freeze your credit effectively.
“The government has decided to offer that as a free service with all three of the major credit reporting agencies,” said Jason Cryderman of Great Lakes Investment Advisors in Midland.
As of late-June, all credit freezes are free in Michigan. Freezing will be free for consumers in every state this September.
“You are doing preventative maintenance, saying I’m going to put a freeze on ahead of time so no one can access my credit report,” Cryderman said.
However, would-be thieves aren’t the only ones who aren’t able to access your credit: neither can you. If you want to take out a loan or open a new credit card, you’ll have to lift, or unthaw, your credit (which is also now free).
“They’re pretty quick to put on from your lap top, a phone call, a cell phone, pretty easy to take off as well,” Cryderman said.
If you decide to freeze your credit, don’t let your guard down. You aren’t completely protected.
“You could’ve had a hack in the past where your information was used, or this happens a lot, where you open up a credit card and then you pay it off and you never use it,” Cryderman said, “if that card is still active and open, that company still has access to that credit report and a freeze will not prevent that from happening.”
Jason says that’s where credit monitoring comes in. There are companies out there that will let you know if anyone is trying to use your sensitive data.
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