Data breaches, credit freezes, and identity theft… oh my!
News reports of large-scale data breaches — like this week’s announcement from Home Depot — have prompted some of our readers to ask about a credit freeze. Also known as a security freeze, this tool lets you limit access to your credit report, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.
Our Credit Freeze FAQs can help you decide whether a credit freeze is right for you. One thing to remember: A credit freeze doesn’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. Even if you elect a credit freeze you still will monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts for charges you don’t recognize.
You also can check your credit reports — for free — every few months by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com or calling 1-877-322-8228. Federal law allows you to get a free copy every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Accounts on your credit report that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit ftc.gov/idtheft to find out what to do.
Finally, be aware of phishing scams. Delete email or text messages that ask you to confirm or provide personal information (credit card and bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, passwords, etc.). The sender already may have some personal information about you, stolen as part of a data breach. Don’t let that fool you. Legitimate companies don't ask for sensitive personal data via email or text.