TUCSON – “Somebody took it away from me in the blink of an eye.” In less than a month this woman destroyed what I had worked for for 15 years.”
“I mean your credit score is basically all you have.”
“I was mugged, they got my information.”
Those three people are victims of identity theft. They and all consumers now have some help in the form of a little-known law that took effect recently. You can now freeze your credit and place a year-long fraud alert for free. A freeze used to cost anywhere between $3-$10 depending on the state you live in. It was $10 in Arizona.
“It’s great because there’s no charge to the consumer,” says Susann Miller of the Better Business Bureau Serving Southern Arizona. “And with so much fraud happening right now, we really encourage consumers to take advantage of that.”
The law took effect a year after Equifax disclosed a major data breach that exposed the personal information of 148-million Americans and prompted lawmakers to rethink identity security. You can freeze your credit instantly by contacting your credit card company. With most, you can do it online or through their mobile app. You can unfreeze it when you want to make a purchase. With a credit freeze in place, scammers cannot see your information or open new accounts in your name.
Miller said, “If they have your information, they’re going to go ahead and create accounts where they can get the most impact. So credit cards, that’s a really big one because they can use that funding for whatever they want.”
The Federal Trade Commission says to avoid becoming a victim of credit card theft:
-Read your credit card statements carefully and often.
-Know your due dates. If a bill doesn’t come when you expect it, look into it.
-Shred documents with personal and financial information.
-Review your three credit reports at least once a year.
“I think you just really need to make sure that you’re monitoring your information on a regular basis,” Miller said.
A credit freeze does not affect your credit score or prevent you from getting your free annual credit report. And many credit card companies offer free credit monitoring. If yours does, you should definitely take advantage of that.
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