By John Daskauskas
Special to GUIDON
Two decades ago, the retail experience mainly consisted of brick-and-mortar stores, restricting consumers to operating hours and limited payment options.
Today, with a connected environment and 24/7 access, consumers expect the freedom to shop where they want, when they want, and how they want. In this world of multi-channel e-commerce, consumers use numerous payment methods to complete online purchases, from card or wallet solutions, to one-click and contactless pay.
But what happens when you hear the news that there’s been another security leak/breach at one of many different retail and financial agencies that have your personal identifiable information on file in their robust database.
What are you supposed to do? What resources and assistance (federal-state-credit reporting bureaus) are provided to the average consumer dealing with this much-maligned personal financial transgression?
The answer might be a credit freeze, which can lock your credit report.
When will free credit freezes be available?
The consumer credit rules in the new law take effect 120 days after the law was enacted, so most likely sometime in September.
Equifax’s freezes were already free through June 30, as part of the company’s response to last year’s data breach.
You can do it by phone or by filling out a form on the website of each of the three credit bureaus. You’ll receive a personal identification number that you must use to lift the freeze if you want to apply for a loan or a credit card.
Does the new law offer freeze protection to children?
The law allows parents or guardians of children under 16 to freeze a child’s credit file. If a child doesn’t have a credit file — which is often the case — the law directs the bureaus to create one, and then freeze it. (Currently, options for freezing a child’s credit vary by state and credit bureau.)
The easiest way to safeguard yourself against fraud is by limiting the number of financial accounts that your credit card or social security number are attached to. It’s highly recommended that consumers annually check credit reports with each credit reporting agency on some special “anniversary date;” you can either look at them in a batch (all three in one session) or spread your review of each credit reporting agency per span of every four months.
Only then can you begin to win the fight against cyber criminals and dishonest merchants.
Equifax — 888.766.0008; www.freeze.equifax.com.
Experian — www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/category/fraud-and-identity-theft/security-freeze/
TransUnion LLC — 888.909.8872; https://freeze.transunion.com/sf/securityFreeze/landingPage.jsp.
(Editor’s note: Daskauskas is a personal financial readiness specialist at ACS.)