ATLANTA - Last September, we found out that Equifax experienced a data breach involving 145 million Americans! With a population of roughly 200 Million adults, that means your personal financial information has likely been compromised.
With identity theft a growing problem, things are likely to get worse, and you may find yourself being billed for debts you do not owe.
But there’s a quick solution to protecting your credit, and it won’t cost you a penny, according to Real Estate Expert JOHN ADAMS.
Q: John, what’s this all about?
A: It’s about protecting the data involved with your credit, and if you’ve ever thought about renting an apartment or buying a house, you’ll know how important good credit can be.
Well, credit crooks steal your personal information, apply for credit in your name, then make purchases you never receive. Then YOU get the bill and have to PROVE that you never made the charge in the first place.
It’s an agonizing process to clean up your credit, and since your NAME, AGE and SOCIAL SECURITY number can ever change, you can never be sure it won’t happen again, and again, and again.
Q: How does this involve our real estate?
A: Because real estate is so valuable, the owners want to make sure you pay your bills on time. And the way they do that is to pull a copy of your credit report.
And if that report shows you having unpaid bills and unresolved debts, regardless of who made them, you will be branded as a BAD CREDIT RISK, and turned down for the application you have made.
Q: Is this a serious problem?
A: In 2014, the Justice Department reported that there were over 17 MILLION cases of identity theft reported, with many twice that many attempts having been made without success. So yes, it’s a big problem, and it’s growing.
Scammers like it because it’s fast, it’s profitable, and it’s unlikely anyone will ever be caught. You don’t even need a gun or a mask. And it happens every day.
Q: If it happens to a consumer, what is the eventual cost?
A: In 2014, the Department of Justice conducted a study on the average out of pocket cost to the consumer for the common crime of identity theft. It showed that, on average, we will spend almost fifteen hundred dollars getting our name cleared and our credit straightened out. And it can take months, even years, to correct all the mistakes on your record.
Q: Is there a solution?
A: Yes, you can PROTECT YOUR CREDIT with a paid solution like LIFELOCK, but it costs you about $20 per month for coverage. And even then, you have no guarantee of true protection.
But last week, Congress voted to require the three major credit repositories to allow every consumer the right to place a FREE CREDIT FREEZE on their personal financial information. And if the creditors can’t get at it in the first place, your safety level is dramatically increased.
Q: I thought this cost a lot of money?
A: The cost of a credit freeze varies from state to state. In Georgia, it’s three dollars per agency, and the agencies don’t make it easy, but that’s about to change.
Once in place, the new legislation will require a quick and easy process to freeze out ALL NEW CREDIT applications from your credit records. A creditor must secure YOUR PERMISSION before they can view your credit report.
If you decide to apply for new credit, the lender will apply to see your report from Equifax, Experian or TransUnion, and YOU will have to grant permission directly to the credit agency. This is called LIFTING THE FREEZE and currently costs you money as well. But under the proposed legislation, LIFTING THE FREEZE will also be free for consumers.
Q: How can we find out more: Go to MONEY99.com and click on the CREDIT FREEZE tab. Complete instructions on instituting a credit freeze.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Take control of your own credit information before someone steals it from you. FREEZE YOUR CREDIT NOW!