Protect Yourself from Fraud and Identity Theft

Keith is the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and Head of Global Infrastructure Services at Universal Weather and Aviation, a billion-dollar international aviation services company that operates 50 locations in 20 countries.

Keith has made several industry contributions including serving as a U.S. delegate to the International Standards Organization’s Cyber Security Sub-Committee and leading an international software security best practices project. Keith holds an MS in Computer Systems and a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

Avoid Common Scams

Never provide your ID & Password or Pay anyone who contacts you directly by phone or email. Fraudsters often use threats based on debt collection, tax default, court rulings, etc. to try and scare people into making immediate payments. Always contact the organization back using published information.

Free Credit Reports

You can request a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) once a year. You can split this up and request a report from a different bureau every four months to get the best coverage. By law they must provide a free copy of your credit report each year via a government-mandated site:

www.annualcreditreport.com

There is a fourth credit service, Innovis, which is not a traditional credit bureau but manages similar information. It is not covered by the FCRA free credit report requirement, but you can request a copy of their credit report here:

https://www.innovis.com/personal/creditReport) 

Credit Monitoring

Credit monitoring services are designed to watch your credit history in order to detect new applications for credit in your name. This can help detect credit-related fraud and identity theft and these services are supposed to alert you when someone attempts to open a new line of credit in your name. However, these services won’t completely stop identity thieves from impacting your credit. These services act like a burglar alarm – if the alarm goes off, someone has already broken in. The service may quickly alert you when someone pulls your credit file (i.e. runs your credit), but they can’t stop fraudsters from making new applications for credit in your name. These fraudulent applications can also cause credit record contamination, even if not approved. This is because credit checks affect your credit score and false data in an application, even those that are not approved, can still get imported into your bureau records (leading to inaccurate information like address, phone number, etc.). It is also important to note that credit monitoring does not watch your credit cards for fraudulent charges or monitor banks that may open other accounts in your name.

Fraud Alerts

You can place fraud alerts (also called a “security alert”) on your credit file every 90 days. This step is supposed to require potential creditors to contact you and obtain your permission before opening new lines of credit in your name. If you file a fraud alert with one of the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion), they are required by law to alert the other two bureaus as well.

There is also an extended fraud alert, which remains on your credit report for 7 years and can only be initiated if you have been the victim of identity theft. When you have a fraud alert on your file, lenders, and service providers are supposed to obtain your approval before granting credit in your name, but they are not legally required to do this. 

Fraud Alert Links

  • Equifax 90 Day Fraud Alert or Active Duty Alert:

https://www.alerts.equifax.com/AutoFraud_Online/jsp/fraudAlert.jsp

  • Experian 90 Day Fraud Alert:

https://www.experian.com/fraud/center.html

  • Trans Union Fraud Alert:

http://www.transunion.com/fraud-victim-resource/place-fraud-alert 

Freezing Your Credit File

You should consider freezing your credit file at the major credit bureaus.

A security freeze essentially blocks any potential creditors from being able to view or run your credit file unless you unfreeze or thaw your file beforehand. With a freeze, ID thieves can apply for credit in your name, but they will not be able to get new lines of credit in your name or impact your credit score.

Freezing your credit involves notifying each of the major credit bureaus that you wish to place a freeze on your credit file. Depending on your state of residence and your circumstances, you may also have to pay a small fee to place a freeze at each bureau. The fee ranges from $0 to $15 per bureau. Since a freeze only affects a specific bureau, you should put a freeze in place at each.

If you need to unfreeze your file for the purposes of gaining new credit, ask the company you are seeking credit from, which credit bureau they use. Once you know which bureau the creditor uses, contact that bureau and unfreeze your credit. This will require the PIN they gave you when you froze your credit file with them. The thawing process usually takes about 24 hours.

Credit Freeze Links

  • Equifax Security Freeze:

https://help.equifax.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/75/search/1

  • Experian Security Freeze:

https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

  • Trans Union Security Freeze:

http://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze

  • Innovis Security Freeze:

https://www.innovis.com/personal/securityFreeze

ChexSystems Banking Account Monitoring

ChexSystems is a check verification service and consumer credit reporting agency owned by Fidelity National Information Services. Thousands of banks use ChexSystems to verify customers that are requesting new checking and savings accounts. ChexSystems allows consumers to place a security alert on their data. This makes it more difficult for ID thieves to fraudulently obtain checking and savings accounts.

More information can be found here:

https://www.chexsystems.com/web/chexsystems/consumerdebit/page/home