Identity theft is becoming the scourge of our electronic economy ranking right up there with illegal drugs. It’s really that bad.
I don’t know if you are like me in this respect, but I take reasonable precautions like being sensitive to information gathering schemes, called “phishing”, and hope that nothing really bad happens. But I worry when I see idtheftcenter.org report that one in every 30 Americans are victims of identity theft each year. I plan on living more than 30 years, so it seems likely the odds will catch up with me with statistics like that. Sure there are victim’s rights laws to protect us, but who knows exactly how or if they work? Who wants to find out?
Credit monitoring services, the best solution I have seen until now, tell you if there is a problem, but don’t really prevent one. That is like closing the gate after the horses have gotten out. However, the following excerpts from Michelle Singletary’s column in the February 25th Prescott Daily Courier resonated with me and are spurring me to action. I thought you might be interested, too.
“. . ., a much better way to deter thieves from grabbing your good credit name is a “security freeze,” which blocks access to your credit reports and credit scores. That means the credit bureaus can’t release your credit reports, scores or any other information from your files without your authorization. With no credit report, most lenders aren’t going to approve a new credit application.
“I’d rather pay to put a security freeze on my credit files than pay for monitoring services. A security freeze typically costs $10 per credit file . . . in the 26 states that have passed laws allowing it. Seventeen more states are considering security freeze laws this year. Since you should place a freeze on all three of your major credit files, that amounts to $30 to freeze them all $60 if you are married.
“The freeze stays in place until you request it be lifted. You can lift it temporarily when you need a lender to view your files. Or you can lift it for a specific creditor. (And by the way, you can still get your own credit file if it’s frozen.) In most cases, you’ll have to pay a fee to temporarily lift the freeze, generally another $10.
Arizona currently has 3 bills pending to allow its residents to request Security Freezes. Last year, similar bills were shot down in Committee before ever being voted upon in the full House of Representatives. This year, I’m emailing my representatives to ask that they get Security Freezes passed into law. I’d suggest you do the same if you share my feelings on this subject.
State Representative Lucy Mason: firstname.lastname@example.org
State Representative Andy Tobin: email@example.com
State Senator: Tom O’Halleran: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Federal Trade Commission has a Web site on identity theft with a slogan that says “Deter, Detect and Defend.” To find the site, go to www.ftc.gov and look for the link to “Avoid ID Theft.’’