Saturday, August 7, 2021
Marc Carney is a Merifield Acres resident and currently serves as a member of MALA’s Architectural Board

I write this not as a professional but as a member of the community and someone who professionally deals with matters of digital security daily.  Please take everything written as friendly advice.

Increasingly more and more of our information is stored digitally and unfortunately it is not always well protected.  The number of companies reporting data breaches increases every year and is not likely to stop.  Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to keep your information from getting out.  The good news is you can make it harder for nefarious individuals to use that information

There are a number of companies that will monitor your digital data and provide you reports and alerts of suspicious activity and they have their merit.  Most of them charge a fee, however some credit card companies offer some of these services for free.

That being said one of the best things I believe you can do is called a credit freeze.  I am going to assume that most of you have a good idea of what your credit score is and what it means.  Freezing your credit prevents banks and other lenders from being able to check your credit score.  So what?  Well, if your information is compromised in a data breach someone may use that information to open a line of credit in your name; this is identity theft and is often very difficult to recover from.  However, no lending institution is going to give someone a line of credit without doing a credit check first.  If someone posing as you with your SSN and address goes to open a line of credit, that institution will run a credit check and if they find your credit is frozen will deny the line of credit until such time as they can verify your credit score.  So, while someone may have your sensitive information you have just made it much more difficult to do something with it and generally these people are looking for the easy targets.

In the US there are three credit agencies that will provide lenders your credit score: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.  As for 2018 by federal law each of these agencies have to offer you, free of charge, the ability to freeze your credit.  This can be done over the phone or online and while differing by each agency is fairly easy.  They are also required to permit that freeze to be lifted or relaxed for given period of time.  For instance, you have frozen your credit with each agency but now want to buy a car.  You will need to contact each agency and request a temporary lift of the credit freeze so that the lender may verify your credit score.  Some of the agencies even allow you to specify which company can verify your credit. 

As each agency’s process for freezing your credit is different; I will not go into those details, but that information should be easily available on their websites or you can contact them by phone. 

They may offer to “lock” your credit.  This is often a paid service and is probably more than most of us need.  When you request your credit to be unfrozen it may take a few days to process so plan ahead.

There is a lot of information on the internet about how to freeze your credit and I encourage you to do a bit of research into this valuable offering.