ARTICLE ON CREDIT FREEZES THAT MAY BE OF INTEREST TO FEDERAL EMPLOYEES

Subject: Credit Freezes - Most Effective Tool Against Cyber breaches & It's SIMPLE

Some 100,000 households had their prior-year tax returns stolen out of IRS databases by a sophisticated criminal ring. Today we are being told by OPM that a cyber breach occurred potentially impacting more than 4 million of current and former government employees. The AICPA, Blue Cross, Home Depot, Target, EBay and other major organizations to name a few have also suffer similar breaches. In most cases, the company or organization offers a year or two of credit monitoring services. However, such services does very little by way of preventing such unauthorized acts.  

I'm not an expert but I have been doing some research on the issue and found that many financial and cyber security "experts" have said that these offers of a free credit monitoring does very little.  Credit monitoring only puts fraud alerts on your credit files with the 3 main credit bureaus. These alerts are meant to raise a flag to potential creditors, alerting them to carefully verify an applicant's identity before extending credit. But very often these alerts are ignored.  Many feel that credit monitoring is just window dressing and it it's a credit freeze that you really need. That's why a credit freeze is superior to credit monitoring. A credit freeze allows you to seal your credit reports so no new applications for credit can be initiated in your name without your knowledge. (That's often what happens in the aftermath of breaches like this, where a lot of personal info about you gets into the wrong hands.)

When you do a credit freeze with the 3 main credit bureaus, you get a PIN that only you know. This PIN can be used by you to temporarily "thaw" your credit so that legitimate applications for credit and services can be processed. Without this PIN, a criminal would not be able to establish new credit in your name even if they are able to take over your identity.  Freezing your credit files has no impact whatsoever on your existing lines of credit, such as credit cards. You can continue to use them as you regularly would even when your credit is frozen.

A credit freeze will cost you from zero to $10 per bureau (every state is different), but I think it's worth it. You must freeze your credit with all 3 bureau.  IN NEW JERSEY IT COST YOU NOTHING TO PLACE A CREDIT FREEZE. In most cases to temporarily thaw your credit, depending on the circumstances, it may cost $5.  In my view, if you cut off access to your credit you can't be a victim of an unauthorized breach.

Attached are some articles that may help you understand the pros and cons of placing a credit freeze - it may not be for everyone but it seems to be a very inexpensive way to minimize the potential damage. 

Placing a freeze takes all but 10 minutes for all three credit agencies and you will have to do it for yourself and spouse.

You can go to each credit bureau's website or following the links in the first article attached or below.  

http://www.clarkhoward.com/credit-freeze-and-thaw-guide

http://www.state.nj.us/dobi/division_consumers/finance/creditfreeze.htm