Chances are, you or someone you know has been touched by some form of identity theft. According to this article in the New York Times, about one third of reported identity theft cases involve new account fraud. This is when someone opens a new account using someone else’s personal information then, uses said account as their own. This sort of fraud takes the longest to detect, but it could be easily prevented if consumers were allowed to freeze their credit.
The good news is that it is possible to institute such a freeze on one’s accounts. But, it is probably not free nor easy. The above mentioned article states that 39 states have enacted credit freeze laws that ensure that the three credit bureaus offer consumers the ability to freeze and unfreeze their credit as needed. Each state, however, has different regulations. This requires more work on the consumers’ part than is really necessary.
First of all, consumers should be able to freeze and unfreeze their credit free of charge. Secondly, if the credit bureaus can’t voluntarily put their heads together and figure out how to make this work well for everyone, federal law should mandate it. Identity theft costs businesses and consumers millions of dollars per year and this is a sure-fire way to eliminate a fair amount of it.
If you are interested in learning more about how to protect your personal information, you can wade through the information on the Consumers Union identity theft Web site. At minimum, you should take advantage of the free, annual credit reports that are currently available to everyone.