Saturday, April 21, 2018
Business

Protect your credit by freezing it

Since the major data breach at Target, many readers have been asking how to best protect their credit.

It's likely you've heard that if you're a victim of identity theft or you want to protect your files from fraud because you suspect you are vulnerable, you should put a fraud alert on your credit files at the major credit reporting agencies — TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. But you may not be familiar with a security freeze, a much stronger option to help protect yourself and prevent identity theft.

With a fraud alert, a business must verify your identity before it issues credit. The alert is supposed to let lenders and others know that they need to give closer scrutiny to any request under your name because something might be amiss.

You can have an initial fraud alert placed on your file for at least 90 days. For an alert that lasts for seven years, you must submit a copy of a theft report filed with a law enforcement agency to get the extended status. Both types of fraud alerts are free.

Placing a fraud alert does not affect your credit score or your credit accounts. You only need to make one telephone call because that agency will inform the other two. All three bureaus have identity-theft information on their websites.

But here's something to keep in mind: A fraud alert isn't foolproof. It can be overlooked, allowing criminals to open accounts in your name.

"A lot of credit decisions are done computer-to-computer, so an alert might be missed," said Evan Hendricks, publisher and founder of the Privacy Times newsletter.

However, a security freeze, also known as a credit freeze, blocks access to your credit report and credit score. It prevents the credit bureaus from releasing any information in your file without your permission.

You're probably thinking: This is great. Where do I sign up?

While a security freeze is something you should definitely consider if you're an identity-theft victim, you also need to take into account the cost and inconvenience.

The fees to place and lift a freeze vary by state. You don't have to be a victim of identity theft to put a freeze on your credit reports. In Florida, it costs $10 (on Experian) to place a freeze on your report. To lift it temporarily, you'll pay from $2 to $10. But if you've been a victim, there is no charge for the freeze.

You'll find state-specific details about fees by going to any of the three credit bureau sites and searching for either "credit freeze" or "security freeze." Check with each bureau for its requirements for placing, lifting or removing a security freeze. You'll have to verify your identity each time, so the bureaus can make sure it's you asking for the freeze.

The freeze stays in place until you ask for it to be removed. And you might want it removed more frequently than you think. Credit information is used for a lot of things. You may need the freeze lifted to open a new credit account, rent an apartment, buy a car, sign up for new cellphone service, refinance your mortgage or give access to an employer or any other business that requires a look at your report. It can also take several days to lift the freeze.

Even a credit freeze isn't guaranteed to stop identity theft. As the Federal Trade Commission points out, a credit freeze may not stop misuse of your existing accounts or some other types of identity theft. Criminals, such as those in the Target case, can just steal the information for existing accounts and misuse it before you find out. Also, companies that you do business with would still have access to your credit report for some purposes.

If you're worried about data breaches, a security freeze may give you some comfort, Hendricks said.

"The situation with Target is, we know the breach was by bad guys," he said. "So if you aren't going to be applying for credit anytime soon, consider getting a security freeze."

Comments
Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

When Samantha Hess’s marriage ended five years ago, she felt she was lacking a basic human need: Physical touch. As a woman in her late 20s living in Portland, Oregon, she found plenty of men interested in dating, but sexual contact was not what she ...
Published: 04/21/18
Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Tampa Bay foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa has violated numerous rules of professional conduct and caused two clients to nearly lose their homes because he failed to tell them about settlement offers from their banks. Those were among the prelim...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Times staffThe greater Brandon area will celebrate the grand opening of its second Goodwill store beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday (April 28) at 1407 U.S. 301. The new store will add another 12,000 square feet to the complex, which includes a 200,000-...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

State regulators Friday determined that one of the country’s largest residential solar companies, San Francisco-based Sunrun, is allowed to lease solar energy equipment for homes in Florida. The decision, solar energy advocates say, could open the do...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

For the sixth month running, Florida’s unemployment rate held at a nearly 11-year low of 3.9 percent in March as steady job gains continued. While many factors kept Florida’s economy chugging along, three industries stand out for leading year-over-ye...
Published: 04/20/18
Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

ST. PETERSBURG --- Stretched across the front of Tim and Hyun Kims’ two-year-old house is a big banner with the name of a developer and the words: "I have to fix my new house."Some of what needs fixing is instantly apparent. The front steps are too ...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida has hit a milestone of sorts as it slowly moves toward wider availability of medical marijuana.The number of patients in the state who are registered to use the substance has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, according to Florida Departme...
Published: 04/20/18
Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

The Tampa Bay Times recently sat down with Walmart director of corporate communications Phillip Keene to chat about the retail giant’s latest retail strategies and how the company is winning over customers in a competitive market.Already, two of the ...
Published: 04/20/18
SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

Associated PressNEW YORK — SunTrust Banks Inc. says accounts for 1.5 million clients could be compromised following a potential data breach. The Atlanta bank says that it became aware of the potential theft by a former employee and that the investiga...
Published: 04/20/18
Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

The Tampa Bay area’s hotel occupancy rate rose to 87.5 percent in March, the highest level in three years. The rise was fueled by spring break vacationers as well as insurance adjusters and hurricane cleanup crews flooding the state to restore it aft...
Published: 04/20/18