For real. This is urgent.
In case you’ve had your head in the sand, we’re being attacked. Yes, all your usernames and passwords are probably sitting in some hackers inbox and they’re tracking your
crack Starbucks addiction because they hacked your bank account and can see all your transactions.
First of all, I can’t believe there aren’t more articles circulating right now on how to protect ourselves from identity theft. There are some really practical, but pointless, articles going around telling me to change all my passwords so that none of them match, so the hackers have a harder time piecing my identity together. That would take me longer than it takes me to fill out an eharmony profile; it’s not gonna happen.
Oh, and I love it when people say “just don’t enter your credit card online.” SERIOUSLY, did someone just say that? The people who suggest that are the same people who still use hotmail for email – definitely offending at least 25 percent of my email subscribers right now. It’s true though, hotmail? really?
A nice woman wrote an article on The Consumerist explaining what to do if someone gets all your personal information and then steals your identity. Yes, that’s what happens, they get your usernames and passwords and then steal your life, Talented Mr. Ripley style.
They hack your social security number, credit card numbers, bank info – all of it. They become you. They then basically mess up your life for an extended period of time because they go around and buy all sorts of stupid stuff, like cars and boats…. and a whole lotta stuff from Circle K. All of these charges are on a credit card in your name, that you’re supposedly paying. Merry Christmas to YOU!
And if you’re like most people who never check their credit, you wouldn’t even know that your life is going to hell, until you’re planning to buy something big that would require a lender to check your credit, like a house for your family, a car, or a anything else that costs a lot of money.
This is buried about fourteen paragraphs deep in the article I mentioned above that the woman wrote, and she only loosely addresses it which is surprising to me because if you do this right now, you can avoid being in her situation.
You need to freeze your credit reports, now, and then you need to set up a fraud alert.
You have 3 credit reports: Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. Each issue a credit report on you and those three credit reports determine your FICO score. When thieves are buying stuff in your name and nobody is paying the bill, they’re demolishing your credit, which is your “FICO score,” and you’re eff’d, for a really really long time. Don’t plan on getting a new credit card, access to credit, a mortgage, or any sort of loan if your credit is trashed.
If you freeze your credit, no one can take out a new line of credit in your name. Nobody, like a lender – a car dealership or a bank – can even check your credit until you temporarily lift the freeze, which you can do with the links below. If they can’t check your credit, nobody can get new credit in your name, and that’s what you want.
So for example if the thief wanted to lease a car, the car dealership would try to check their credit. But when they contact Equifax, Transunion, and Experian, they’re S.O.L and can’t get the reports, because you froze them.
This sets off all sorts of bells and whistles: the thief can’t explain why the reports are locked, the car salesman can’t check the credit, and the thief realizes they messed with the WRONG PERSON!
Here are the links to Experian, Transunion, and Equifax so you can freeze your credit. When I did this a few years ago it cost 10 dollars to freeze the report and 10 dollars to lift the freeze, but it varies by state.
Services like LifeLock are fine, but they’re just “fraud alert” services. They don’t freeze your credit reports, you have to do that directly with the 3 credit bureaus. LifeLock will alert you if someone is trying to open a new line of credit, they can’t halt the process necessarily.
I actually use LifeLock and have my 3 credit reports frozen because I’m paranoid. One of my family members had his identity stolen a few years ago and that’s all I needed to hear.
The one downside to freezing your credit is you will forget that you froze it, like I did, and then you’ll be trying to buy something that costs a lot of money and someone will be trying to check your credit, and they can’t, so then you can’t buy whatever you wanted to buy.
You’ll be in the Apple store, like I was, trying to figure out why the salesperson is such a moron and can’t even sell you an iPhone. And then, you’ll be even more pissed when they tell you they can’t sell it to you because they need to be able to check your credit if you want to buy the phone. Nobody knows what’s going on.
Then, you’ll scratch your head for about 5 minutes and say “OH, I froze my credit…soooooory, my fault!!”
I had to go home that night and dig out my passwords so I could unfreeze my credit, and then go back to the store a few days later to buy the iPhone.
I did the same moronic thing when I refinanced my apartment. The lender tried to check my credit and my credit reports were frozen, but I forgot. It delayed the process by about 2 days. She was pissed.
It takes 2-3 days usually for the unfreezing process to go through. But you know what, when I was trying to buy the iPhone and refinance, I got a call from the credit bureau within 1 minute of salesperson and the lender trying to access my credit. They asked me if it was OK for them to access it, so I said yes obviously. They couldn’t access it until they reached me, which is what I wanted.
Then 1 minute later I got an email from LifeLock telling me someone was trying to check my credit, which was the fraud alert I’m talking about. So LifeLock did their job too.
This is what you have to do if you want to protect your life: freeze your credit and set up fraud alerts if you want the extra protection. The most important thing is to freeze your credit reports so no one can even access your credit information without talking to you or you entering secret passwords to lift the freeze.
I wanted to get this out to you today so you have a little homework for the weekend, do it.
Leave a comment below telling me you did it or I’m erasing you from my distribution list. I’m serious. I’m weeding out all the dumb readers of my blog today, so if I don’t hear from you, you’re out.
And send this to all your friends.