In the wake of the Equifax data breach, over half of all Americans had their personal information stolen by hackers. This could have lifelong implications because your social security number and other personal info does not go stale, it can be used by some fraudster to set up an alter ego or individual credit accounts in your name. Aside from data breaches, the three major credit bureaus regularly release your credit information without your prior permission, which increases the odds your valuable personal information can be obtained by crooks.
To protect yourself, you should enact a cease and desist of that profit-motivated practice. You should further act to require your prior permission before any information the credit bureaus possess on you is released to anyone but current creditors.
We suggest two courses of action. The first is free and the other comes at a small cost. The freebie is an opt-out. It prohibits the credit bureaus from selling your personal credit information to lenders who want to lure you into using their offers of credit. The downside is that you may miss out on beneficial offers that you will not receive in any other way. The upside is that your information does not get input into another database that can be hacked.
We believe it is impracticable to allow the profiteering credit bureaus and potential creditors to exchange our information and subject ourselves to the increased risk of identity theft that results to receive an offer of credit. While such offers boost our ego, horror stories from victims of identity theft encourage us to find our own credit offers.
By law, you are entitled to opt-out, and prevent the credit bureaus from including your information in prescreened credit offers for a 5-year period. You can do this by calling 1-888-567-8688 or go to www.optoutprescreen.com.
For those of you who want to freeze the release of your credit information, the credit bureaus offer a credit freeze for $5-$15. This prohibits the release of your information to any person or creditor without your prior permission, unless it is one of your current creditors. The thaw can be permanent or limited to a certain potential creditor or a set amount of time. To enact a freeze or a thaw, you must contact each of the three major credit bureaus and pay their fee.
In the wake of its data breach, Equifax was waiving its credit freeze fee. How long that will last is unknown, but since its objective is to make money, it will likely reinstitute a fee when it is certain it will not take a PR hit.
The credit bureaus dislike opt-out and credit freezes because it prevents them from selling your information. We at Credit Score Maestro believe these are essential moves made by game managers. To learn more on how to protect your identity and to optimize your credit use to build a 760+ credit score, order Winning the Credit Score Game, and check out our Credit Health Calculator which can be downloaded for free on our home page.