My father was recently a victim of identity fraud. Thankfully he noticed something wrong and was able to stop the thieves before they did any damage to his credit.
The positive side to the story is that my family learned about credit freezes. Many times identify thieves will use your information to apply for new credit. This way they can have the new credit card sent to their address and by the time the victim finds out, it’s normally too late. If you put a freeze on your credit with the 3 credit reporting agencies, Experion, Trans Union and Equifax, then they will not give out copies of your credit report to anyone new. (This will not affect any companies you currently have credit with.) Reputable lending companies won’t give out new loans or credit cards without access to your credit report.
You can freeze your credit online, by phone or by mail. Here are the credit freeze links for each of the credit reporting agencies:
You can temporarily lift the freeze if you do want to get new credit because you are buying a house or you’d like a new credit card. In Massachusetts there is a $5 fee per credit reporting agency for each time you place or lift the freeze. In some states, the fee is $10. IMHO, $15 is a small price to pay to know that no one is taking out a mortgage in my name that I don’t know about!
My father’s story has a happy ending – the police caught the thieves and the case is being prosecuted by the DA.