TAMPA - Eight months ago Steve Adler's life was turned upside-down by a letter from the IRS.
"I was wondering how could my tax return could be filed, not by me," he said.
Taking a closer look at his financial records, Adler found he was the target of identity theft. He immediately froze his credit score.
"I was worried they could get into other things in my credit cards," he said.
Tampa consumer lawyer Eric Seidel, with McIntyre firm explains.
"You basically are having the three credit agencies stop reporting your credit to anyone that wants to sign you up for a loan or a credit card," Seidel said.
Seidel recommends checking your credit report every few months through websites like annualcreditreport.com .
"If someone starts stealing your credit, and you don't put a stop to it right away, it can take years for you to correct this," he said.
The cost to place a freeze on credit files is free for anyone over the age of 65 and to past victims of identity theft. For anyone else it is $10. Adler said if you think something is fishy, don't wait to find out.
"It is like having a bad cut or a bad wound. If you don't put a tourniquet on it, the results are going to be terrible," he said.
Anyone who freezes their credit report can use current credit cards and equity lines, but new ones can not be created. To remove or temporarily lift a security freeze costs an additional ten dollars.
"You need to try and nip it in the bud as soon as possible," said Seidel.
Adler said it should be about six months before he can unfreeze his credit report, but his encounter left him on the lookout for thieves.
"It is as though you have no locks on your door and you are inviting everyone to come in and take everything that you have," he said.
Info on credit report security freeze:
- -Files can not be shared with potential creditors.
- -An identity thief will not be able to receive new credit in the name as credit files are locked.
- -Consumers can still use their credit cards and pay mortgages and car loans.
- -To order free copies of your credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com to review for accuracy and errors. Make sure errors are corrected prior to freezing your credit files.