EP 133: Protect Yourself from Identity Theft the Easy Way

protect-yourself-identity-theft-lock

This episode is about protecting your identity during divorce. We already touched on this topic when we talked with cybersecurity experts in Episodes 109 and 122. This time, we will focus on one specific tip that can give you peace of mind during and after your divorce.

People who are going through a divorce often realize that their soon-to-be ex-spouse has access to all of their personal information, which could be used to fraudulently apply for a credit card or take out a loan in their name. Their spouse knows their social security number, birthday, past addresses, and the answer to almost every security question that banks use to verify someone’s identity. Particularly when the divorce is not amicable, it becomes a real concern that the ex-spouse could open a line of credit in your name. Many people want to know how they can protect themselves.

You may have seen commercials for identity-protection companies or credit-monitoring services. These companies monitor your credit report and alert you when there is any change. However, they all include disclaimers saying that they are not able to protect you in all circumstances. These services typically cost $9-30 per month, which adds up over time. There is a simple solution that gives you better protection and costs less.

Most people do not realize that their credit report is open all the time. In other words, any company can find out their credit history, so they can decide whether or not to issue you credit. Therefore, without your knowledge, someone has access to all your personal information. However, you can freeze your credit so that it cannot be accessed without your knowledge.

Here is how this process works:

1.     You request a credit freeze from all three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). It takes 5-10 minutes for each credit agency and costs about $10 each.

2.     Your credit report will then be “frozen,” so that no company can request that information without your permission. You will choose a username, password, and a code to control access to your information.

3.     When you apply for a new line of credit, the lender will tell you that they need to access your credit report. You will usually only need to take this step for one credit agency. You will contact the credit agency and ask them to open your credit report for a short period (i.e., 24 hours). You will again pay a fee of roughly $10.

4.     The bank or credit card company will request your credit report as they normally would, and your credit report will be re-frozen after the designated period.

Keeping your credit frozen is an excellent way to protect yourself because you have to explicitly give permission for companies to access your credit. Most people only open new lines of credit a couple times per year, so it is not necessary for it to be open all the time. Although it costs some money, the price is much less than identity protection services, and it is actually more secure. When you ask to have your credit frozen, you can also choose to receive notifications about your credit score and changes to your credit history.

Everyone can take this small step to help secure their finances and protect themselves from identity theft.

Thank you for listening to the Divorce and Your Money Show. Visit us at www.divorceandyourmoney.com for 1-on-1 coaching. If you enjoyed the show, please take a moment to leave a review on iTunes, as it will help other people discover this free advice.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.