November 19, 2008
One of the best ways to protect yourself from some forms of identity theft is a fraud alert. And the best thing about a fraud alert is that it’s free. You just have to remember to renew it every 90 days but you only have to notify one of the credit bureaus and they will notify the others.
A fraud alert puts a note on your credit files that asks any new creditor to call you at the phone number you provide before issuing any new line of credit.
Here’s how it worked for me recently.
I wanted to get an iPhone and had to change phone companies. Opening new cell phone accounts is one of an identity thief’s favorite things to do. But with my fraud alert in place, it would be almost impossible for anyone to pretend to be me. Heck, I even had a few problems coming up with the answers to their questions.
While at the at&t store, the sales guy told me they had to run a credit check and needed my social security number. Knowing I was protected (I also personally have LifeLock), I gave it to him. Within a few minutes, my old cell phone rang and a very nice lady from at&t asked me questions about my old address, mortgage payment and credit card accounts.
Because I hadn’t applied for a new credit card in some years, I had a tough time coming up with the answer to the most recent card I had gotten. To make it even tougher, the original issuing bank had been bought out. So I had to put on my thinking cap to remember the new name because I almost never use that card.
So the whole process with the fraud alert only took about 5 minutes.
If I had placed a security freeze on my credit files, I would have had to pay $10 to each credit bureau to remove the freeze before I could have changed phone companies. Plus, I’d have to pay that same amount to refreeze them. That would have been an additional $60. I would have had to plan the change some time in advance too because it doesn’t happen immediately.
I feel very comfortable knowing the fraud alert is in place and yet I still have easy access to my credit if I choose open a new account. It’s perhaps not as fool-proof as a complete freeze but it fits my lifestyle perfectly.