Is Your Social Security Number Compromised? Then, “Freeze” It!
Identity theft complaints topped the list of fraud reports the FTC received in 2021, with 1,434,695 complaints. ID theft made up about 24% of the 5,883,409 reports of fraud, identity theft, and other complaints.
The most commonly reported fraud category after identity theft was imposter scams, which were responsible for 995,789 reports and close to $2.4 billion in losses—nearly doubling the roughly $1.2 billion attributed to the category in 2020. In an imposter scam, a criminal poses as a representative of a trusted institution or government agency in order to steal money or personal information.
The third-most reported form of fraud for 2021, online shopping scams, led to about $393 million in reported losses from consumers—up from $251 million in 2020, the FTC reported. Online shopping scams include crimes in which goods or services purchased online are never delivered; sold items are not what the seller represented in an advertisement or sales listing; sellers are swindled, or false negative customer reviews are used to harass or intimidate sellers.
|Top Fraud Incident Report Categories for 2021|
|Category||Number of Complaints|
|Online shopping and negative reviews||410,399|
|Prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries||154,785|
|Business and job opportunities||104,288|
|Telephone and mobile services||97,977|
|Travel, vacations and timeshare plans||62,196|
|Foreign money offers and fake check scams||39,113|
Hackers have been successful in targeting financial institutions, retail companies from Target to Home Depot, and even government agencies. They have stolen sensitive credit card data, Social Security numbers, and banking accounts in large data breaches.
After a data breach, hackers have names, Social Security numbers, addresses and credit information. That is all identity thieves need to open new lines of credit, apply for loans and create a financial nightmare for unsuspecting consumers.
A Simple Way to Protect Yourself
One of the simplest and most effective ways to protect yourself from the negative effects of identity theft is to place a security or credit freeze on all of your credit reports. That way crooks and lawbreakers can’t use your credit file to get new credit in your name. Further, if someone reports any new information to a creditor (such as a change of address or phone number), you are notified.
Initiating a Security Freeze on Your Credit File
A security freeze can be a cost-effective identity theft prevention tool. Freezing your credit file prevents access to your credit accounts and your entire credit file.
Under a security freeze, no one is able to open a new account, get a loan or sign up for a new credit card in your name or Social Security number. In effect, all inquiries into your credit file will be prevented. Freezing your credit file doesn’t affect your credit rating or existing credit lines at all.
Your credit report is “frozen” and you are given a PIN that you can use to temporarily unfreeze your report when you are applying for new credit. (There is a cost for unfreezing, however, so make sure you know the costs going in.)
Credit Freezes are for Everyone – Don’t Wait Until You are a Victim, Act Now
Security freezes have been available for identity theft victims for a long, time, but now are available for everyone. A credit freeze simply needs to be removed a few days before you apply for credit. For individuals who apply for new credit on a rare basis, freezing the credit file can help prevent identity theft.
Victims of Identity Theft – Fraud Alerts & Fraud Reports
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), every American has some protective rights when they become a victim of identity theft. It is a good idea to place fraud alerts on your credit reports with all three of the consumer reporting agencies.
Fraud alerts inform anyone accessing your credit that you may be a victim of identity theft and they should be cautious about requests for credit coming from your Social Security number. Once you initiate a fraud alert, the credit reporting agencies will provide a free credit report, place a fraud alert on all three consumer reporting agencies and your information will be removed from all pre-approved credit card and loan offers for two years.
Take Action Against Debt Collectors
If you become the victim of identity theft, it is possible that debt collectors may erroneously pursue you. In some cases, they may violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Unethical and illegal tactics are prohibited under the FDCPA.
You have the right to be free of harassment and intimidation during the collection of a debt. If you believe that your rights have been violated, contact the Law Office of Mary Higgins to schedule a free consultation.
To freeze your credit reports, contact all of the nationwide credit and consumer reporting agencies:
Credit bureau self-service websites
Each of the credit bureaus has a self-service page on its website dedicated to common customer questions and popular services. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion offer users the ability to:
- Request a credit report.
- Dispute an item or issue on a credit report.
- Freeze and unfreeze your credit (or the credit of a minor or incapacitated person you’re helping).
- Report or monitor fraudulent activity or identity theft.
These self-service pages also allow you to complete these actions online and by mail. Many contain downloadable and printable forms for mailing as well as secure portals where you can submit requests virtually.
Information you’ll need
When initiating a phone call with one or more of the credit bureaus, be prepared to answer questions designed to verify your identity.
You’ll likely be asked for your full name, date of birth, Social Security number, and current and former addresses. Having this information accessible will ensure the call goes smoothly and prevent you from having to call back later.
If you have a dispute with a debt collection agency regarding the validity or amount of a debt being collected, fill out our FREE CASE EVALUATION FORM.
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(This article is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. Your case should be reviewed by an attorney to determine the proper legal advice for your situation.)