As the name suggests, a credit freeze prevents businesses and individuals from accessing a credit report for any reason, such as ordering a credit check. This is a critical tool for stopping identity thieves, who may use the personal information they stole from you to apply for credit under your name.
Unfortunately for victims of identity theft, obtaining a credit freeze is not always free. Depending on your situation and the state you live in, you may have to pay a fee. Doing this multiple times across each major credit reporting agency can add up to some real money — which is the last thing people want to worry about when they fear that their personal finances are about to be compromised.
However, Maine enacted a new law this month that will make it possible for people to freeze their credit files for free. The law was partly a response to the recent data breach that affected nearly 15 million people who applied for T-Mobile service in the past two years. Will Lund, superintendent of Maine’s Credit Protection Bureau, told the Bangor Daily News that this breach “shows that there is no such thing as a system that is completely unbreachable.”
This is certainly true. But another reason why free credit freezes are important is because identity theft can happen to anyone, at any time, for reasons large and small.
Winter weather could boost identity theft threat
Mainers know winter all too well. They’re used to the cleanup and repair efforts that become necessary whenever snowstorms blanket the state. But what they may not know is that significant weather events can also become breeding grounds for identity thieves.
The Federal Trade Commission’s website featured a recent post that lists some of the threats that people should be aware of following a storm of any kind, whether it is a major hurricane, a flood or a blizzard. One particular problem is that of solicitors who seek donations. For the most part, these people are simply well-meaning volunteers who are trying to do nothing more than help those in need. Still, some may be scammers, seeking not only your money, but also any personal information they can glean. It’s important for people to vet those who seek donations before handing over a check.
Use credit freezing when necessary — but be proactive as well
The best way to avoid identity theft is to be proactive. For additional protection, be sure to invest in acredit monitoring service, which can notify you of certain activities that may indicate fraud. With that information, you’ll know whether you have to obtain a credit freeze.
This can give you much-needed peace of mind, allowing you to rest assured that you’re taking important measures to safeguard your identity.