Protecting Credit During Travel

Over the years my former agency periodically suffered record breaches ranging from cyber intrusions to carelessness, resulting in numerous occasions where my personal information had been compromised. As a result I use a third party service to monitor my credit report.

I’ve also read many stories of expats who didn’t realize they were victims of identity theft until years later when they returned to the states.  This made it difficult to track down records for correction.

Some of my solutions to protect my credit while on long term travel includes:

OPTION 1: Credit Monitoring

With Zendough, you receive alerts when there are changes to my credit history (positive, negative, change of address, application, etc).

Zendough is a fine company and I have no complaints with them, but I think it’s an overkill for $15/month. However, this seems like a great safety net for people who have active business transactions involving frequent credit report access.

Unfortunately, two things de-valued Zendough’s service for me in the last year:

  • They now only provide  free vantage credit scores every 90 days. This is not the score used when applying for credit.
  • They allow subscribers the option to freeze credit applications online for Transunion, but not for Experian or Equifax.

OPTION 2: Credit Freeze

If you plan to be out of the country for an extended period and don’t need to apply for credit, a cheaper option is to freeze all your accounts with each credit bureau.  Unless your state law dictates otherwise, it costs $5 per agency for credit freeze requests (and $10 to remove).

I saw several different addresses on the internet and on official correspondence received by the credit bureaus.  If it’s helpful, these were the addresses I successfully used in the summer 2015:

Transunion, PO Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022   www.transunion.com/securityfreeze

Equifax, PO Box 105139, Atlanta, GA 30348   www.freeze.equifax.com

Experian, PO Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013   www.experian.com/freeze

In 30-60 days after mailing the freeze requests, each credit bureau responded with confirmation and  a PIN number.  Each agency provided the procedure for temporary global lifts of the freeze (for a specific time period) or for a temporary lift for a one-time use by a specific company. They also included instructions for a permanent lift on the freeze if desired.


SAMPLE LETTER

To whom this may concern:

This correspondence is to respectfully request a security freeze on my credit to prevent the possibility of identity theft.  I don’t anticipate needing additional credit in the next few years.

  • Name:
  • Address: <list all within the past 5 years>
  • Social Security Number:
  • Date of Birth:

I’ve enclosed a $5 check along with a copy of my driver’s license and utility bill for this freeze to be implemented within the next 3 business days.

If you require further information, please contact me at <phone number>.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

<Signature>

 <Your name>


THIS IS A FACT SHEET FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.  IT IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. FOR LEGAL ADVICE, YOU MUST CONSULT YOUR OWN ATTORNEY.

Have you experienced identify theft while traveling?  Do you have other suggestions to consider for protection of  credit records?

Photo: © www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/almagami

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