Tag Archives: Equifax

How to Freeze Your Credit

The recent Equifax data breach exposed the personal identifying information of at least 143 million U.S. consumers, which has led to a wider interest in placing a “security freeze” on credit reports (a.k.a. “freezing your credit”).

A security freeze prevents new credit accounts from being opened using your personal information, unless you lift the freeze in advance of applying for credit. This is accomplished using a PIN that either you or the credit bureaus create when placing the original freeze. This means that a freeze can stop an identity thief from creating new lines of credit, even if they already have all of your information.

A credit freeze is an important tool in preventing one type of identity theft, but does not prevent existing accounts from being accessed with stolen credentials, fraudulent credit or debit card transactions, employment or medical identity theft, or the filing of fraudulent tax returns. In other words, even after you place a security freeze, you still have to remain aware of the risks of identity theft.

There are three major credit bureaus and one minor. Here is where to go for each one, as well as some notes (information is accurate as of 10/2/2017, but websites may be updated in the future):

TransUnion: https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze2

Notes: use the “Click to initiate freeze process” link (last item under the “How Do I Decide What to Do?” table). Note that a “lock” is different from a freeze; what you want is a freeze. TransUnion requires you to create an account with a password, then you can place the freeze and create your PIN. To temporarily lift the freeze, log in at https://freeze.transunion.com.

Experian: http://experian.com/freeze

Notes: Experian is probably the easiest of the four to use, with the “Add a security freeze” option prominently displayed. You can create your own PIN, or have the site generate one for you. You can also choose whether to print your receipt or have it emailed to you. Double-check that your email address is correct if you choose this option! Visit the same site to temporarily lift the freeze.

Equifax: https://www.freeze.equifax.com

Notes: creates a “one-time PDF” which contains your PIN (the site generates it for you). Make sure you’ve got a PDF reader installed beforehand so you can view the file (Adobe and Foxit are popular free choices). Visit the same site to lift a freeze.

Innovis: https://www.innovis.com/personal/securityFreeze

Notes: Innovis sends your PIN via postal mail around 10 business days after you place the freeze. To lift the freeze, visit the same website and follow the instructions.

Ten Tips for an Identity Theft-Free 2011

I haven’t been able to do much posting lately. They moved us to a different office here at the credit union, and it’s been a little nuts. However, everything is finally settling down, so I thought it might be good to do a little “top ten” sort of thing. Let’s start with what NOT to do:

1. Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails

If you get an email that looks like it’s from a bank, credit card company, PayPal or other financial service, think before you click any links. Are they saying your account or card has been deactivated, and they need you to login to “verify” your personal information? That’s a common scam called phishing. The link will take you to a rogue website that may look like a real login page, but is designed to hand over your account and personal information to thieves.

2. Don’t give out your information to just anyone

You need to provide your personal information when you’re applying for a job, applying for a loan or opening a new financial account. If someone else is asking for your information, find out why before you even consider handing it over. And never give your information out to a person who calls you on the telephone, no matter who they claim to be, which brings us to…

3. Don’t implicitly trust Caller ID

With modern digital phone services, Caller ID can be manipulated to say just about anything. If they’re calling you and asking for nonpublic personal information, you could be looking at a scam.

4. Don’t carry your Social Security card with you

Look in your wallet or purse right now. Is your Social Security card in there? Get it out and put it in a lockbox or other secure location right now. If you get robbed, it’s bad enough that a thief has your cash and credit cards—do you need to hand them your identity as well?

5. Don’t leave personal information unsecured

In a quarter of identity theft cases, the victims know the person who stole their identity. Don’t leave personal information lying around, at home or at work.

Now, we all know that being reactive is only part of the equation; you have to be proactive as well. Here are some things TO do:

6. Buy a small paper shredder

With all the attention given to high-tech forms of identity theft, it’s easy to forget that a lot of it begins with dumpster diving and trash picking. A small shredder costs under $25. Not having one could cost you thousands.

7. Get a credit freeze

If you’re an Indiana resident, you have the right to place a credit freeze on your credit reports. This makes it impossible for a theif to open new accounts in your name even if they have all your information. More information is at www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/2411.htm.

8. Check your credit report

Ignore the commercials with the silly songs. You don’t really need your credit score or to enroll in any high-priced credit monitoring services. What you do need is to check your credit report at each of the three major reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Go to annualcreditreport.com and follow the instructions. Since the reports should all have the same information, it’s a good idea to stagger them—get TransUnion in January, Experian in May and Equifax in September, for example. Report any errors immediately.

9. Install virus protection on your computer

Norton, Kaspersky, McAfee: they’re all good, so pick one and use it. They cost money to buy, and you will have to pay annually to keep your software updated. I know, money doesn’t grow on trees, but spyware, viruses and keyloggers apparently do—you can’t afford not to have up-to-date virus protection software.

10. Educate yourself

Pay attention to news articles about fraud and identity theft. If you’ve got a question about something, research it online. Sign up for email alerts from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. And, naturally, keep checking right here for news, tips and other fraud prevention goodies. Have a secure and happy New Year.

Fraud Alert: beware of callers who claim to represent Medicare.

Last week, a member of our credit union had a close call with a Medicare scam.

The member received a phone call from someone who claimed to be from Medicare. The caller stated that they were going to issue the member a new Medicare card, and needed the member’s account and routing number to proceed.

As soon as the member revealed this information, the line went dead. Sensing trouble, the member immediately called REGIONAL and had alerts placed on the account before any fraudulent withdrawals could occur.

I think this is what they call a “teachable moment.”

First, Medicare is never going to call you asking for your financial account information, nor would they need this in order to issue new cards.

However, I know these people can be convincing on the phone, and when someone is telling you your Medicare could be cut off, it’s hard not to react.

So that’s the other lesson today: if you get that sinking feeling seconds after a phone call or revealing information on a website, call the affected financial institution immediately to have your account locked down (and, ideally, start the process of closing the account and opening a new one with a different number).

If you’ve revealed more than just an account number and are concerned about identity theft, call the three credit reporting agencies right away and have identity theft alerts placed on your credit reports:

TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian:  1-888-EXPERIAN

Even though you could just call one of the above, and the other two will have the information within 24 hours, go ahead an call all three yourself, just to make sure.

The faster you act, the less chance the bad guys have of harming you.

Suspicious Email: credit reporting agencies are NOT going to remove accurate negative information

I recieved the following suspicious email message this morning. I have removed all the links; other than that, this is the full text:

Credit News: “All Three Credit Bureaus Forced to Remove All Negative Credit” 

Hi, it’s Glenn Garvin with updated news about your credit…

*** Find Out How Your Negative Credit Can Be Removed By The Bureaus***

All negative credit can now be removed from any credit report……and not just by Experian…TransUnion and Equifax will also remove all negative credit because…

….of a simple and proven legal strategy that forces them to comply with the “Law” based on Section 609 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The Section 609 Credit System is patented and copyrighted and has been used on behalf of 125,000+ clients since 1999 to remove or turn to positive over 5 million negative items….

But the amazing thing is that…

It has never lost a single case. – Not one case…Ever!

The Section 609 Credit System is used for the clients of over 3,500 Law Firms and Attorneys and well over 22,000 Lenders and Loan Officers…because it works!

To Be Clear: The Section 609 Credit System can remove ALL negative credit from ANY credit report from all three Bureaus…

Think of what this can mean for you or someone you know who is currently living with damaged credit…..A huge boost in scores and no more negative credit showing up on credit reports….within a few short weeks!

There’s a lot more to know about the Section 609 Credit System….

So a Free Section 609 Guide has been prepared to explain everything.

Don’t hesitate… ***** Get Your FREE REPORT Right Here ******

I’ll check back again with more information,

Glenn

PS. This is NOT credit “repair”. You’ll learn why in the free report.

If you already have great credit, please pass this information on to some who is not as fortunate. The fastest growing segment of the entire country are people with lower credit scores.

The Section 609 System is the only successful method that legally forces the credit agencies to remove all negative credit.

CreditRestore
(mailing address removed)

Really?

A while back, I did a “play along at home” post with a suspicious email. I posted the full text, with very little comment, and then posted my list of things that should tip you off that it was a scam the next day.

This time, I’m just going to pass judgment: this email is extremely suspicious. I would not click on a single link, trust a single word, or give it a second thought. There was a mailing address at the bottom, and I can say this much about it: Glenn Garvin doesn’t live there.

What I think they’re doing is selling you some “secret” method of clearing your credit report of any negative information.

It won’t work, by the way; the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) will not remove accurate records from your credit report. The law, believe it or not, is on their side. Imagine—the financial industry having been set up over many decades by lawyers, bankers and legislators who knew exactly what they were doing and covered every base.

It reminds me of those Mortage Elimination scams you see sometimes—the ones where you pay for some “secret” information. When (and if) you get the information, it’s some crackpot theory about how your mortgage wasn’t actually money, and therefore you don’t have to pay it back, and your case will win every time in court. What actually happens is that you end up losing your house (at best) and serving time in prison for fraud (at worst).

That’s probably exactly what this “Section 609 System” is: a way for you to make your credit problems seem trivial, once you’ve been convicted on federal charges.

By the way, here is the full text of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Section 609 says you have the right to dispute information on your credit report. It does not say the agencies have to remove it just because you said so. It’s in Section 609 (c), which is actually readable; the heavy legal-ese starts later in the Section.

Also: Glenn Garvin is apparently a journalist (Miami Herald) and libertarian activist. I’m pretty sure he isn’t selling credit repair secrets. Plus, no veteran journalist would ever use that many ellipses. It’s very poor writing.

Five Things About Credit Reports

  1. By law, you are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.
  2. There is only ONE place to safely obtain these credit reports: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/. Beware of websites with similar names, since these could be spoof sites created to steal personal information (which you are required to provide when you get your credit reports). Also, do not be taken in by cute commercials with catchy songs. You know the ones I’m talking about. That is a service (of debatable value) that costs around $80 per year and, from what I hear, is very difficult to cancel. They’ve gotten in some hot water regarding advertising practices, too.
  3. You can obtain your credit score when you get your reports, but you will have to pay for this information. The report is free, getting the score is not. For the purposes of checking for identity theft, fraud and errors, you do not need your score. Actually, you don’t really need it for much of anything, unless you’re the type who wants to brag about your credit score. People are not impressed by that, incidentally.
  4. All three of the major credit reporting agencies are required to share new information with each other within 24 hours, so your credit reports should all contain the same information. Use this to your advantage: stagger your reports so (for example) you’re getting TransUnion in January, Equifax in May, and Experian in September. It’s a great way to keep tabs, rather than getting all three in January then waiting 12 months to check your reports again.
  5. When you read your credit reports, you’re looking for accounts you did not open, errors regarding late payments, charge-offs or collections, and balances that are wildly different than what you think they should be (if it says you owe Discover $14,000 when you’ve never owed more than $27, for example). Basically, you’re checking to make sure all the information is accurate.

Credit reports are a vast, complex subject. I’ll talk more about them this week—this could turn into a series!