Tools of the Trade: Credit Freeze Tools and New Innovations

NCPW

By Christopher Pugh, Fall 2014 Student Intern

During National Consumer Protection Week, we are bringing you a number of different tools that may help you prevent falling victim to fraud, scams and bad financial decisions. But if you fall victim to identity theft, someone else can make bad decisions in your name before you even realize what happened.  Below are some tools to help you prevent identity theft and the often nightmare scenarios that follow this crime for the victims.

One helpful tool to help avoid identity theft is Georgia’s credit freeze law. The law provides consumers with a tool that will freeze all their credit reporting activities and access until the consumer authorizes the release.  All three major credit reporting companies participate in the freeze law and charge a $3 lift fee for removing the freeze each time the consumer authorizes the lift. A credit freeze can be a powerful weapon against identity theft.  When a freeze is in place, credit reporting agencies may not release the consumer’s credit report or credit score unless the consumer first removes the freeze by providing his password.  By denying such access, a credit freeze makes it very difficult for an identity thief to open an account in a victim’s name.

Another growing type of identity theft is called “card skimming.”  This is where a device is attached to the front of an ATM machine to read your credit card number, or a pocket card scanner that can allow a quick swipe by a retail employee or someone else you may hand your card to.  Many credit and debit cards offer insurance as a tool to protect against this type of identity theft, but the theft needs to be reported in a timely manner. So checking your account activity on your banking app or website is crucial to prevent losses due to identity theft.