Protect Yourself: Be Part of the 20%

Should I have a credit bureau freeze in place?

Well, it finally happened. I got back from a week’s vacation and went through my mail that accumulated while I was away. And there it was. The letter. Without opening the envelope, I knew it was going to be first-hand field research.

My first clue was the return address―a bank in South Dakota even though I live in Ohio. The letter thanked me for applying for the bank’s credit card (which I had not done) and informed me that I needed to unfreeze my credit bureau account so they could review my credit report to complete the loan application. A fraudster unknowingly targeting an industry fraud analyst. What kind of mileage could I get from this!

I called the South Dakota bank and explained that this was a fraudulent application since I had not applied for a credit card. The representative’s response was classic, “Quite a bit of this has been happening lately”. So, I pressed for additional information. The fraudster who completed the application used my name, home address, phone number (though it was my old landline phone that was disconnected), and Social Security number. The fraudster provided an email address that he/she controlled rather than one of mine. In my line of work, I am careful with my data, yet the fraudster had it all. You should consider your personal data to be in the public domain too.

What saved me is the freeze I have on my credit reports with the three main credit bureaus. If there is any attempt to open a line of credit (car loan, credit card, home mortgage, etc.), access to my credit report and credit score is blocked. I can temporarily unfreeze my credit report so a company can check my creditworthiness as part of a credit application process.

If I had not done this, the credit card application would have been approved. Who knows how long it would have taken for me to discover this. What’s worse is thinking about the effort it would have taken to undo the damage from a credit card run amuck. Thank God I didn’t have to go down that path.

In consumer research conducted by Datos Insights, roughly 20% of the U.S. population has a credit bureau freeze in place. I pity the 80% of you who don’t and the potential headaches you are facing. In today’s world, it is much better to be part of the 20%―and hopefully that percentage grows.

Here is my public service announcement for 2024: Freeze your credit reports with all three credit reporting agencies. Below are links to do it, and yes you need to do it with each agency. It is well worth the time to protect yourselves, especially considering the number of large data breaches that have happened.

DO IT NOW!! Join the 20% of us who sleep a little easier at night.

Contact me at [email protected] or check out our published research into the severity of online application fraud and investments financial institutions are making in application fraud controls.