Thank you, Olympia and Salem! In their recently concluded 2018 legislative sessions, both Washington and Oregon passed laws allowing you to freeze and unfreeze your credit files with the three major credit-reporting agencies for free – giving you an important tool in the fight against identity theft.
The rest of the country may soon follow, with legislation pending at the federal level.
So what do the new laws mean to you? Beginning early next month, they'll remove cost as a factor in deciding whether or not a credit freeze is worthwhile in trying to keep your financial accounts safe.
Why freeze my credit report?
With a freeze, a credit agency can't release your data to a business looking to determine your eligibility for credit. That can stop thieves from opening a new account in your name (but according to the Federal Trade Commission, it can't prevent them from making changes to your existing accounts). For a freeze to be effective, you'll want to place one with each of the three major credit reporting agencies, and every person in your household needs to do their own freeze. These links will help you get started:
Each site is slightly different, but all ask you for personal information like your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number. Once you've sent your request, you'll receive a PIN to unfreeze your accounts in the future when you want to apply for credit.
Besides freezing your credit report, there are two less-drastic options you might want to consider:
fraud alerts and credit monitoring.
What can I do on my own?
Whether or not you choose any of the steps above, always keep a close eye on bank and credit statements for signs of withdrawals or purchases you didn't make. Each year, request free copies of your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies (enter the URL carefully: annualcreditreport.com) to see if anything appears inaccurate.
Also, watch for anything that just seems off: bills from doctors you've never visited, an inexplicable turn-down for a job or loan or a call from a bill collector. They could be innocent mix-ups or the first sign identity thieves have targeted you.
YOU HAVE A POWERFUL ALLY IN THE FIGHT AGAINST FRAUD
As a PEMCO customer, you and family members living in your home automatically receive
PEMCO ID Smart™, which gives you unlimited one-on-one access to a fraud specialist at no additional charge. While most people call after they've had a problem, you don't have to be an identity theft victim to use it. You can simply call for thorough, accurate answers to your questions about identity theft and data breach defense.
To get started, call 1-800-GO-PEMCO, and we'll connect you with CyberScout®, the experts behind PEMCO ID Smart.