The advent of the internet has made many things in life more manageable. Unfortunately, one of the things the internet has made more common is identity theft. While everyone is at risk, high net-worth individuals are especially vulnerable to this type of fraud. If you have a high-profile role in a high-profile industry, or if you have a liquid net worth of greater than $1 million you are 43% more likely to experience identity theft than the general public the Department of Justice found. The well to do are targeted precisely because they often possess that irresistible combination of easily transferable assets and high social media exposure. If you can steal from a rich person or a poor person, why not take from the rich one?
What do do about a credit freeze
There are some things you can do to avoid identity theft, but among the most important is to protect your credit file with the three major credit agencies. It is now free in every U.S. state to freeze and unfreeze your credit file and that of your dependents, a process that blocks identity thieves and others from looking at private details in your consumer credit history.
A credit freeze blocks potential creditors from being able to view your credit file (unless you proactively unfreeze it beforehand). With a credit freeze in place, thieves will not succeed in securing new lines of credit in your name because not many lenders will approve credit without first viewing your file. Because each credit inquiry caused by a creditor can lower your credit score, the freeze also helps protect your score.
To file a freeze, consumers must contact each of the three major credit bureaus either online, by phone or by mail.
Equifax Online Credit Freeze Page
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5788
Experian Online Credit Freeze Page
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion Online Credit Freeze Page
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
It is important to point out that a credit freeze is not the same thing as a credit lock. A credit lock is a service marketed by the credit agencies for which you may have to pay a fee. A credit freeze is a consumer right and is free under Federal law. Credit locks may be a little more convenient while accomplishing the same thing as a credit freeze but with less legal protection. Credit locks are another in a long line of products the credit agencies have created that do more to protect their interests than your interest.
Spouses may request freezes for each other by phone as long as they can pass the authentication process.
Children are also vulnerable to identity theft. Why? Their Social Security numbers offer identity thieves a clean slate to apply for credit cards, mortgages, and other loans. It may also take years to realize that your child is a victim of identity theft. Some parents won’t even find out until their children apply for student loans or car financing.
Federal law makes it free to place freezes for dependents under the age of 16, or incapacitated adult family members. However, the process is cumbersome. It requires parents or guardians to submit written documentation of proof of authority, such as a copy of a birth certificate or a Social Security card or in the case of an incapacitated family member — proof of power of attorney.
A Cornell University study found that older adults are especially at risk. The study found almost 5% of seniors are less able to perceive people’s intentions and understand dangerous situations and thus be financially exploited.
The temptation to steal is tightly wound into the fabric of human nature, but that does not mean you need to make it any easier for identify thieves.
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Source: Innovis — Krebs on Security. https://krebsonsecurity.com/tag/innovis/