It seems as if every week we read of some new financial scam preying on innocent victims. Tragically, many of those harmed the most turn out to be seniors. Thieves often target retirees because older people may be more trusting and less tech-savvy than younger adults, making it easier to gather the personal information that makes some kinds of fraud possible.
Recently, according to this recent article on the AARP Blog, those scam artists appear to have switched tactics. As a result, your best defense might be one that has been around for years: a credit freeze.
The AARP Blog article cites a recent study on fraud that says the fastest-growing type of fraud involves opening new credit accounts in a victim’s name. This type of new-account fraud doubled in frequency from 2014 to 2015, and the trend continues to rise. With more than 180 million personal records lost or stolen last year, thieves who get their hands on that personal data see a goldmine if they can open phony accounts in someone else’s name and then bleed those accounts dry.
For that reason, say the experts, a security freeze or credit freeze is your best defense against new-account fraud. The AARP Blog explains that these credit freezes were originally offered for those who had experienced identity fraud – someone pretending to be you. Now, however, consumer protection experts recommend that most if not all Americans should put a freeze on their credit, whether they’ve been victimized or not.
It works like this. When someone opens a new account at a credible business or lending agency, the business runs a routine credit check with one or more of the three national credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. If you put a freeze on your account with those three agencies, scam artists applying for credit in your name won’t get it. A freeze doesn’t prevent your current creditors (or the government) from checking your credit, which many routinely do. Also you can remove the freeze at any time, such as when you apply for a mortgage or loan.
The AARP Blog piece gives the phone numbers for the three credit bureaus and explains the procedure for placing a freeze on your account. Note that there may be a fee, both for freezing your account and for “unfreezing” it when you need to. Typically, however, if you’re 65 or older those fees are waived.
By the way, the article also explains the difference between a freeze and a fraud alert. Fraud alerts are free, but they last for only 90 days at a time, and they stipulate that credit bureaus should notify you before granting credit. Experts say a credit freeze allows stronger protection. But you still need to be on guard! A credit freeze does little or nothing to prevent someone using your existing accounts to defraud you, and if thieves get your Social Security number they can still find ways to wreak havoc with your identity. Still, a credit freeze seems like a relatively simple way to gain some peace of mind.
If you’re searching for peace of mind as you plan for your retirement, we can help you, just as we have helped thousands. Here at AgingOptions we take a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to retirement planning by including all the factors you’ll need to consider: your financial preparation, your legal protection, your family communication, your housing options and your medical coverage. These elements combine to become a personalized LifePlan, your blueprint for a secure and fruitful retirement.
Sound interesting? Then why not join us at one of our free LifePlanning Seminars? We offer these fast-paced seminars every month, at locations throughout the region. Click on the Upcoming Events tab on this website, select the seminar of your choice, and register online. We’ll look forward to meeting you at a LifePlanning Seminar soon!
(originally reported at http://blog.aarp.org)