Friday, February 11, 2011

DIY "Life Lock" Your Credit

If you watch TV I'm sure you've seen the Life Lock ads with the CEO publicly displaying his Social Security number for the world to see. Well even he had his identity stolen (13 times), but that doesn't have to be you. Credit monitoring is great, but in reality it is really not enough. What you should consider is locking your credit. Even if you don't believe your credit is worthy of locking down it's something you should give serious thought to. With bad credit someone could still open those small accounts like cell phones and utilities, or even worse just outright assume your identity and commit crimes in your name.

Every credit agency in the United States allows you to freeze your credit, and all this can be accomplished on-line. Freezing your credit prevents anyone from fraudulently using it, and if you need to apply for something it requires you to unfreeze it. Once frozen your credit can only be pulled by your existing accounts or credit collection agencies acting on the behalf of a company with your account. To freeze your credit your will have to fill out the necessary forms with each of the three reporting agencies Trans Union, Experian and Equifax (links at the bottom). It's necessary to do it with all three because credit agencies are not linked and what may show on one report may not show on another.

On average it will cost you anywhere from $20-$60 dollars to lock down your report at all three agencies (prices vary by state), That's a small price compared to the monthly fees most companies charge for monitoring your credit, and if someone tried to misuse your name by charging thousands of dollars.  Freezing your credit is the most effective way of protecting yourself because simply adding a statement or an alert to your credit profile isn't enough because computers don't look at these statements. For overseas users credit standards vary by country because of the different laws in each, but there is one more thing that anyone can do. 

I would recommend getting a Google Voice number and adding that number to your credit profile (or Skype number if outside the United States) and use this number when applying for credit. With Google Voice or Skype you can receive email messages saying you have a voice mail, but also with GV you can receive a text message too. And with both services you can forward calls to more than one phone. Fast notification is the most important thing if someone is trying rip you off. For more on Google Voice checkout my guest post at Infocarnivore and my past post on Skype. Remember its better to be proactive than reactive.