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To Protect Your Data, Go Beyond a Credit Freeze

Putting a deep freeze on your three major credit reports is a well-known way to prevent fraudsters from opening credit cards and other loans in your name.  But it’s an incomplete one.
 
Criminals are increasingly opening phone, utility, band and other types of accounts that don’t require your credit report for approval.  They use these accounts as their own, never pay the bill and go undetected until the bogus account goes to collections.  Even worse, some criminals can move money out of a compromised bank or PayPal account of yours and ito a fake checking or savings account they set up in your name.  By the time you discover the money transfer, it’s too late.
 
Last year, 44 percent of victims of fraudulent accounts reported that thieves had set up fake mobile phone and bank services in their names, up from 27 percent in 2016.  Identity theft complaints involving landlines, mobile phones, medical services, insurance and apartment rentals also rose significantly.  Thieves can use information to run insurance scams or get employment according to Al Pascual, head of fraud and security at Javelin.
 
Your stakes are even higher following last year’s data breach at Equifax that exposed personal data of 148 million Americans, including their Social Security numbers.  You should monitor or considering locking down, when possible, other consumer reports that detail your banking, utility and insurance history.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides a complete list of consumer reporting companies at https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201604_cfpb_list-of-consumer-reporting-companies.pdf
 
Pascual recommends:
 
Freeze your reports at Innovis, ChexSystems and the National Consumer Telecommunictions & Utilities Exchange (NCTUE), and request a report from each annually.  Innovis provides information to help companies detect and prevent fraud.  ChexSystems reports information on checking account applications and histories.  NCTUE collects telecom, pay-TV and utility connection requests and account payment histories, defaults and fraudulent accounts.
 
Consider freezing/monitor regularly CoreLogic, Credco, LexixNexis and SageStream who provide supplemental consumer reports to lenders, retailer, utilities and phone service providers and others.  Information includes property data, tax payment status, rental applications, collection accounts, bankruptcies, liens, judgments and child support obligations. Request a report annually.
 
Freeze when applicable/monitor regularly companies that collect information on payday loans, rent-to-own, check-cashing servies and other alternative financial products that cater to lower-income or subprime consumers.  These companies include Clarity Services, CoreLogic Teletrack, DataX, FactorTrust, MicroBilt/PRBC.  Get a free report each year from each of them even if you haven’t used their services to make sure no one has used their services in your name.  If you have used their services before and have a legitimate report, freeze it to prevent fraudsters to open new loans or other financial products in your name.
 
Monitor regularly companies that provide check-screening or verification series to retailers, financial institutions, home improvement and repair shops, medical and dental offices, among others.  These companies include Certegy Check Services, CrossCheck Inc., Early Warning Services, Global Payments Check Services Inc., Telecheck Services.  You can’t freeze your accounts at these companies, but you can request a report every year.
 
Monitor when needed:  If a potential employer requires a background check before hiring you, ask for the name of the screening company and request a copy of the report to fact check.  These companies include: 
  •  Accurate Background
  •  American DataBank
  •  Backgroundchecks.com
  •  Checkr
  •  First Advantage Corporation (also offers free security freeze)
  •  General Information Services Inc. (GIS)
  • Find out which tenant screeing company a potential landlord uses and request a copy to the report.  Common ones include:
  •  Contemporary Information Corp. (CIC)
  •  CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions
  •  Experian RentBureau
  •  First Advantage Corporation Resident History Report (offers security free freeze)
  •  LeasingDesk (Real Page Inc.)
(Note:  Effective September 21, 2018 federal law allows you to freeze and unfreeze your credit files for free at all three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and Transunion.  See http://www.consumer.ftc.gov>2018/09 .

 



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