One category credit fraud is when a hacker opens up new credit accounts in your name, runs up the bill and leaves you to deal with the mess.
While in the long run, if you are persistent, the law favors the consumer, it can be a long slog to get it taken care of. That assumes that you have the time and energy to deal with it.
In the mean time you have to deal with bill collectors and a ding on your credit report (reporting the fraud to the credit bureaus generally helps the credit report problem).
OK, so what is a person to do?
The problem is that there are so many ways to open new credit accounts – banks, retail stores, online stores, cell phone companies and even utilities like water and electric.
One way to help the problem is to establish a credit freeze. A credit freeze applies to your credit report, not an individual credit card or account. What is supposed to happen is that after you establish a credit freeze, no one is supposed to be able to get your credit information. Without that information, responsible creditors will not grant credit.
Since the credit bureaus revenue is controlled by the businesses that ask for your credit information (after all, YOU don’t pay the credit bureau for the privilege of giving out information that has banks not loan money to you, do you), the bureaus don’t want you to freeze your credit. As a result, they charge you a fee when you put a freeze on your account and another fee when you take it off. That is, except in a few states where there are laws that say that they have to do that for free. And, you have to do that for each bureau – Experian, Trans Union and Equifax and even the smaller Innovis,
But wait, as Ron Popeil (if you are too young to know who he is, Google him) used to say, there is more.
For whatever reason, the mobile phone companies are not asking the big 4 bureaus for your credit, they have created their own exchange, the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange. This is the organization that some phone carriers and some utilities use instead. Likely it is cheaper or easier. This exchange only has payment information for phones and utilities, unlike the bigger bureaus, but their customers must think that is sufficient.
And guess who Runs NCTUE for the carriers and the utilities?
(drum roll please!)
None other than Equifax, The same Equifax that leaked information on most adults in the United States a few months ago. Their contract expires in 2020.
You can get a copy of your credit report and “risk score” by calling NCTUE at 866-349-5185 and giving them your social and house number. If the data verifies, they will mail you a report.
They also offer a separate credit freeze capability on their web site, but, according to Brian Krebs, it is not working right now. Accident or purposeful? No one but them knows, but since they only make money if they can sell your info – well you decide.
Sorry, more to deal with!
Information for this post came from Brian Krebs