According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft is at the top of the list of consumer complaints. Despite the best safeguards, it has become clear that we can’t always control the way people access or use our personal information. Even the IRS isn’t immune to scammers. The Government Accountability Office reported that $5 billion in erroneous refunds were paid in 2014 as a result of fraudulent filings. In 2018 Equifax, one of the three major U.S. credit bureaus reported that identity thieves stole the Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers of approximately 143 million Americans.
Check Your Credit Report
To protect yourself against credit fraud, SYM suggests that you check your credit activity on an annual basis. Each of the three main credit reporting agencies allows individuals to request a free credit report once every 12 months. You can access Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion reports from one place, Annual Credit Report, or by calling 1-877-322-8228. You will need to provide them your name, address, Social Security number and date of birth.
Freeze Your Credit
In addition to completing an annual credit check-up, you can choose to “freeze” your credit. You can also purchase identity theft protection from a specialty company such as LifeLock or Identity Guard.
When you implement a “freeze,” credit reporting companies can’t release your credit report without your consent. Should the time come when you need to “unfreeze” your credit, simply contact the agency. They will ask for the secure PIN that they issued to you when you froze your credit.
If you don’t have the time or ability to monitor your credit, consider paying for an identity security service. Such companies screen various databases and search for illicit use of personal data, fraudulent loan and credit applications and the sale of information related to an individual. Should any of these actions be detected, you would be immediately notified and the company will take steps to ensure that no harm is done. Some companies that offer these services also provide payment for damages that result from illegal use of your data.
Fees to Freeze Your Credit?
Also be aware that in certain states, credit bureaus charge a fee to freeze or unfreeze your credit. Depending upon your situation, the agencies may ask you to pay when implementing or lifting a freeze. Check the links below to understand the costs in your state.
- Transunion credit information by state
- Equifax credit information by state
- Experian credit information by state
Protect Your PIN
One last tip: If you choose to implement any form of Credit Security with the various agencies, do not lose the PIN provided by the credit bureaus. The bureaus will require this PIN if you ever wish to lift a freeze to obtain new credit, and the process for re-establishing a lost PIN is intentionally onerous.
To contact your SYM team with specific questions or concerns or for help managing your personal investments, visit SYM online, or call 800-888-7968 to speak with an advisor.