Starting on September 21, 2018, a new federal law requires all credit reporting agencies to provide individuals with the ability to freeze their credit report – easily and free of charge – to protect themselves against identity theft. Congress passed this law in response to the massive Equifax data breach that came to light in 2017. The process takes just a few minutes online or on the phone for each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You will either create or be given a PIN to temporarily lift or fully remove the freeze in the future.
- Equifax: Go online or call 800-349-9960
- Experian: Go online or call 888‑397‑3742
- TransUnion: Go online or call 888-909-887
What is a Credit Freeze?
From NerdWallet.com: “When you freeze your credit at the three credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — you restrict access to your credit report so most lenders can’t see your information until you unfreeze it. Since a creditor is unlikely to open a new account in your name without checking your credit, that protects you from fraudulent accounts. Unfreezing your report requires the use of a PIN.”
Why should healthcare providers take note?
You know that it is vital (and legally required) to protect information about your patients. However, it is also important for healthcare providers to monitor and protect their own credit. As a provider, you are required to hand over a large amount of your personal information – including social security number, date of birth, and home address – to numerous databases for carrier credentialing purposes. If there are any bad actors or shoddy security practices at any point in the process, you could be at risk for identity theft.
While there is no evidence that healthcare providers are specifically being targeted (yet), the American Medical Association (AMA) reports that hundreds of providers have already been victimized by identity thieves filing false tax returns and collecting hefty refunds in recent years.
One caveat: proceed with caution if you are in the middle of a major financial or credit transaction or plan to initiate a line of credit soon. You may want to check with your lender before taking any action to freeze your credit.