I’ve got a great idea for a new business. I’ll offer banks and other companies interested in individual consumers’ credit histories access to that information if they will provide me all of their customers' personal information. First, I'll sell the banks a quick and easily accessible database of virtually every person in the country. Then, I’ll offer those consumers “protection” to guard against bad guys stealing the information that the banks give me.
Oh, and what if I lose some of your information? I’ll offer monitoring and protection for free for the next 12 months, if you’ll just give me your credit card number. I’m sure you’ll remember to cancel the monthly subscription when it starts hitting your statement for $19.95 per month next year. Right?
There is one slight flaw in my business plan, however. Consumers could just freeze their credit. A freeze makes it impossible for new credit accounts to be opened in your name. The cost can be up to $10 per credit reporting agency, but it’s not recurring and may even be waived in some circumstances. A freeze will make it more cumbersome to apply for credit, but it is the best protection against identity theft. Unfortunately for me, it may ruin my perfectly planned protection racket.
If you want to know the next steps to implementing a freeze on your credit, the Federal Trade Commission has a Credit Freeze FAQ that is a good place to start. If you’ve already decided to act, you can contact each agency at the links or phone numbers below:
- TransUnion Credit Freeze Page
- (888) 909-8872
- Equifax Credit Freeze Page
- (800) 685-1111
- Experian Credit Freeze Page
- (888) 397-3742