For years, I would check my credit report every four months. I can peek at them for free once a year from each of the three credit agencies, so staggering this way gives me the maximum amount of free without obsessing and still keeping a close eye. I like this strategy too because, if I do see a credit card I want for some lovely miles, I can easily fill in the information requested and get approved pretty quickly.
But, unfortunately, we can’t have nice things.
Some bad guys hacked one of the credit agencies. Now life is more complicated and expensive for all of us. The credit agencies keep a treasure trove of information on you and help decide what interest rate you are worthy of paying. Remember, even tenths of a percent matter given compound interest and time, so they wield a lot of power.
The breach was wide-spread enough to assume that everything about you is now out there. Social Security Number, Birthday, Old addresses, Driver’s License Number. It is extremely easy for someone to impersonate you and open credit cards in your name with this information.
So everyone’s advice is to call the credit agencies and “freeze” your credit. Block the spigot of easy credit by creating a pin number only you know. One additional layer of security. Whoop. I found this guide to be extremely helpful and recommend you go do that as soon as you possibly can if you haven’t already. My state mandated a charge of $5 or less for a credit freeze, but I think some states allow the credit agencies to charge up to $30.
I’ve been trying to minimize my internet time and have been avoiding the news like a champ for almost a year now. The news that does trickle into view makes me angry. Angry, scared and depressed.
I’m not surprised this breach happened. Of course it happened.
What bothers me is that we’re not doing anything to make it better. The government agency that we consumers can turn to and cry foul is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But the people in power only want to weaken it. We’re marching resolutely backwards in history, kicking and screaming and sobbing.
Why don’t we have free access to our credit reports at all time? Why do we have to pay for freezes and unfreezes? The credit agencies are peddling expensive identity theft protection. They screw up and reach into everyone’s pockets for more? Really?
It’s infuriating and terrifying and I only see additional worries on the horizon. Maybe someone will redirect your social security check into their bank account. Or bill your insurance or claim your tax return. Or some other horrible scenario I haven’t read about yet.
At the very least, go freeze your credit. You guys are savvy and have probably already done this. I just needed to rant. We’ll have to figure out new tactics to preserve our identity as problems come up. It’s going to suck for a while. Sorry.