Seniors should freeze credit reports

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The Federal Trade Commission has alerted consumers to 6 types of scams from identity theft to “You’ve Won” scams on its “Pass it on” Web page and provides people with advice on how to avoid these forms of elder abuse, and what the can do if they’ve been a victim of this abuse. I want to focus on a proactive step that seniors can take to thwart identity theft and that is to place a security freeze on their credit reports.

Security freeze put you in control

The 3 principal consumer reporting agencies for credit are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You have to contact all 3 agencies to place security freezes on your credit reports. The freezes stop new services or loans from being taken out in your name. If you need to apply for credit, you have to remove the security freeze from your report so a lender can review your credit history as part of its decision to approve a loan. This will slow down the approval process for a new loan.

Often free to seniors

There is a fee for placing a security freeze on your credit report and that fee can vary by state. In my home state of Pennsylvania, the fee is $10 plus tax, but seniors age 65 or older can have the fee to place the freeze waived. Victims of identity theft that submit a valid police report number also can have the fee waived.

All 3 credit bureaus have information on their websites showing the fees by state. While the fee for placing the security freeze may be waived, there can still be charges to temporarily lift the freeze, permanently remove it or supply a replacement PIN code.

Be proactive, not reactive

In a world where fraudsters are hacking into the IRS, department stores and other federal agencies to obtain information about consumers, seniors should be proactive about protecting their credit histories and stop people from opening accounts in their name. While periodic reviews of your credit reports will spot trouble, it’s done after the fact. Credit monitoring services are an option but come with monthly fees. A security freeze puts the senior in control of when others can access their credit report in opening a new account.

You can check your credit report for free at myBankrate.

Do you have a security freeze on your credit reports?

Follow me on Twitter: @drdonsays.