Chances are you receive a lot of personal credit card offers, and if you're not actually in the market for a new credit card, then these offers aren't of much use to you. However, with enough information, a thief can use a credit card offer sent to you to open a new account in your name — a particularly dangerous situation for individuals whose personal information is closely tied to their businesses.
To reduce the risk of your personal credit being compromised, you can consider using credit freezes or lock, and opting out of personal credit offers, to reduce the ability of criminals to open credit accounts in your name.
Freezes and Locks
Credit freezes and locks are becoming more popular credit management tools in the wake of several high-profile data breaches at major companies that have compromised the personal information of millions of consumers.
Credit locks and freezes both offer consumer-generated ways to limit how your credit score and payment history data can be accessed. By blocking lenders and card issuers from accessing your credit data, you prevent them from opening new accounts in your name.
This can be a temporary hassle if you want to get a loan or open a new account, but it also offers critical protection against your data being accessed by criminals.
Credit freezes and locks are similar in that they both prevent lenders from pulling a credit report, but offer different levels of protection. A freeze, for instance, are free for consumers and harder to turn off.
To freeze your credit, you need to notify the three major credit agencies, verify some information and establish a PIN number to unlock your data.
A credit lock doesn’t require a PIN number, may not be free, and can be lifted instantly online or with a mobile app. This allows you to access credit easier, but may not offer as much protection as a credit freeze.
How do you choose? A good rule of thumb is to apply a credit freeze if you’ve been affected by a data breach, and a credit lock if you’re concerned about the possibility of your data being compromised.
Opting Out of Offers
Another way to reduce the chance of personal identity theft is to opt out of credit card offers.
Because of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the major credit bureaus offer a consolidated service that lets individuals opt out of pre-approved and pre-screened credit card and insurance offers mailed to your home.
You can also take the process a step further. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) provides a Mail Preference Service that allows you to get some types of commercial mail while stopping others. The DMA separates mail into four categories: credit offers, catalogs, magazine offers, and other mail offers.
It's up to you to decide what you do and do not want for each category. Within each category you can choose whether you want mail from specific organizations, or you can choose that you do not want offers from companies or organizations you have not conducted business with within the last year. Your choices then remain in effect for five years unless you change them.
By limiting the offers you receive and freezing or locking your credit, you reduce the risk of an identity thief compromising your data or responding to a solicitation on your behalf.