If you've been the victim of identity theft, or had it happen to one of your clients or someone close to you, you know the negative impact can last for years afterwards.
Amy Krebs, who was interviewed by Forbes about her experience, described it as "the most time-consuming, upsetting, emotional event you have to go through."1
She says that people who haven't gone through it tend to think of it as simple credit card fraud: Somebody opens a card in your name and goes on a shopping spree. But it's often much more complex.
In Krebs' case she eventually had to go to court to prove to her creditors that she was not the one making the fraudulent purchases. And at the time the article was published she was still in the process of trying to remove the thief's information from her medical records.
Unfortunately, identity theft is an increasingly common crime. Javelin Strategy & Research reports that in 2017 (the latest year for which they've released data) 16.7 million Americans were victims. This was up sharply from the year before.2
This rash of identity crime has been fueled in part by a series of high-profile data breaches, but also by criminals migrating to more sophisticated, multi-step frauds like new account fraud and noncredit transactional cards fraud.
In response to this crime wave, last spring Congress passed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act. The new law contains several provisions designed to make it easier for consumers to help protect themselves from identity theft. One of the most significant that you and your clients should know about is the ability to restrict access to your credit report at no charge.
Credit Report Freeze For Free
Anyone who wants to set up an account in your name must have access to your credit report. By "freezing" your credit report, locking access to it without your permission, you can prevent identity thieves from creating a new line of credit in your name. When a business needs access to your report for legitimate reasons, you simply “unfreeze” it specifically for them.
Under the new law, the major credit reporting bureaus must provide this service to you within one business day of your request and at no charge.
This precaution is analogous to taking the key out of your car and locking the doors when you park it on the street. In other words, common sense.
To freeze your credit you must contact all three credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The request to freeze can be made by phone, internet, or by writing a letter.3
Credit reports were originally intended as a way to determine if you were likely to pay back your debt. Now it's become something of a responsibility rating and used by entities like rental companies, insurers, and employers. It's more important than ever to protect access to it as well as your other personal information.
One additional advantage to making "locked" the default setting on your credit report is that in order to take out a loan, open a credit card, or take on another financial liability, you must first go in and unlock it. Perhaps this is a good way to prompt yourself to reconsider, "Do I really need this additional debt?"
So if you haven't yet, take advantage of the new credit law and be sure to let your clients know about their options.
The views expressed herein are exclusively those of Professional Capital Services, LLC (PCS) and are not meant as investment advice and are subject to change. All charts and graphs are presented for informational and analytical purposes only. No chart or graph is intended to be used as a guide to investing. Information contained herein is derived from sources we believe to be reliable, however, we do not represent that this information is complete or accurate and it should not be relied upon as such. All opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice. This information is prepared for general information only. It does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and the particular needs of any specific person who may receive this report. You should seek financial advice regarding the appropriateness of investing in any security or investment strategy discussed or recommended in this report and should understand that statements regarding future prospects may not be realized. You should note that security values may fluctuate and that each security’s price or value may rise or fall. Accordingly, investors may receive back less than originally invested. Investing in any security involves certain systematic risks including, but not limited to, market risk, interest-rate risk, inflation risk, and event risk. These risks are in addition to any unsystematic risks associated with particular investment styles or strategies.