Thanks to changes to the Dodd-Frank Act, freezing credit and lifting freezes are now free to all consumers. In 2017, there were 16.7 million identity fraud victims who reported losing $16.8 billion, and approximately 158 million Social Security numbers were exposed according to a report from the Identity Theft Resource Center. Consequently, consumer fear of becoming an identity theft victim has risen over the last three years by 12%, and over half of consumers believe that becoming a victim will have a significant impact on their life. This is why now is the time to encourage your customers to consider how they can take action to protect their personal informational from identity thieves.
What is a Credit Freeze
A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, prohibits credit bureaus from disclosing personal information, including their credit report. It can be an effective way to prevent anyone from opening an account or a credit card in one’s name. A credit freeze does not affect one’s credit score or prevent consumers from getting their free annual credit report from each bureau. However, it also does not prevent a thief from making charges to an existing account. Therefore, consumers with credit freezes in effect still need to monitor all financial statements for fraudulent charges.
How to Place a Credit Freeze
To freeze their credit, consumers need to contact each of the three credit bureaus individually -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Contact information for all three credit bureaus can be found on the Federal Trade Commission’s website. Each bureau has a slightly different process, but generally, consumers need to provide their name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other information to confirm their identity. Each bureau will provide a unique personal identity number (PIN) or password that consumers should keep in a safe place as it will be needed if one decides to lift the freeze.
How to Lift a Freeze
If a consumer needs to lift a freeze temporarily or remove it altogether, they can submit a request online, over the phone, or via mail. If the request is made online or by phone, the credit bureau has an hour to lift the freeze. If the request is made by mail, the credit bureau has three days after receiving the request. The request to lift the freeze needs to be made with all three credit bureaus individually.
The Difference between a Credit Freeze and a Fraud Alert
A fraud alert is a notice that major credit bureaus place on consumers’ credit reports in order to prevent transactions from occurring without their consent, whereas, a credit freeze prevents creditors from accessing a consumer’s credit report at all.
A fraud alert makes lenders aware that if a new account is being opened, they should contact the consumer to confirm that he/she really is the person requesting to open it. A fraud alert doesn’t require lenders to call the consumer, but it does encourage them to do so for consumer’s safety. In addition, a fraud alert stays on a consumer’s credit report for one year, but he/she can also get a new one after one year. For victims of identity theft, an extended seven-year fraud alert is available and recommended. Lastly, when a fraud alert is placed, consumers are entitled to one free credit report from each bureau. For a seven-year alert, two free credit reports are available from each bureau. Unlike freezing credit, consumers only need to contact one of the three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert with all three bureaus, as bureaus are required to notify each other when one is placed.
Offering Identity Protection as another Layer of Security
With the prevalence of data breaches, it is in your business’ interest to keep abreast of the changes that affect your customers’ financial wellness and regularly communicate that information to them. Informing them of such changes can demonstrate your commitment to supporting their financial wellness and protecting their data from identity thieves, which can help lessen their fears of becoming an identity theft victim. Offering identity protection is another way you can ease their fears, as identity protection offers a team of experts that can assist with freezing credit and lifting freezes on their behalf, as well a myriad of other identity theft issues that may arise.
Offering identity protection is a smart business move because over half of all Americans (55%) stated that they would have more confidence that a business was actively working to protect their data, and reduce their risk of identity theft or fraud, if the businesses were to offer identity protection services, whether for free or at a cost. Additionally, 58% of consumers shared they are looking to purchase identity protection.
At Generali Global Assistance, we take pride in offering customizable solutions that address your customers’ needs and help you meet your business goals. Our identity protection is a powerful combination of advanced identity and credit monitoring, online data protection technology, and award-winning customer service — all accessible via an easy-to-use dashboard and backed by Generali with over a century of experience. Our award-winning marketing and account management teams work closely with your staff to offer personalized support that helps you meet your business goals. Our award-winning resolution team provides around-the-clock resolution services to your customers – that serves as a valuable extension of your brand. To learn more about how providing identity protection gives customers the peace of mind that they are seeking, sign-up for our email newsletter on the right.