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credit freezeREALTORS® may point clients to family law attorneys when a spousal dispute or divorce arises in a real estate transaction. If they really want to add value as a trusted advisor, what else can they do to help protect their clients’ credit reputation and ongoing borrowing potential?

We’ve heard all the horror stories—from exes mishandling a single payment and instantly trashing a pristine credit score to insincere spouses stealing their children’s identities to establish fraudulent credit accounts.

What can insulate wounded parties from suffering long-term financial consequences that result from activity like this? A credit security freeze could be an excellent option.

What’s a credit security freeze?

A credit security freeze prevents the three major credit reporting companies from selling or sharing clients’ information and therefore eliminates most junk mail. In addition, with the exception of existing creditors, NO ONE has access to frozen credit files to open new accounts. And, most importantly, the identity theft protection is undeniably unmatched.

Prior to 2004, the public had no right to ask for credit security freezes, and in many states, laws allowing them did not take effect until 2009. Even so, it was a real pain to sign up. Experian, Equifax and Transunion made the process torturous, since if too many people froze their credit files, they’d have very little data to sell.

Today, your clients can go online and sign up for the service with each of the “big 3”—but their baseless warnings will encourage them not to do so. Lamentably, in most states a fee is required to freeze credit files: $30 in California, $15 in New Jersey or New York, etc. (It’s free in Montana and North Carolina.) Given today’s technology, it’s ludicrous as to why where someone lives should determine the amount of the fee, and comical that everyone even has to pay to stop these companies from selling their information.

This is how it works. Credit security freezes allow your clients to give access to their information to specific creditors with whom they want to do business. They can also suspend service for a specific period of time. It’s free to cancel, of course, but it will cost another $36 (in the Golden State) to reinstate service following any modification or request.

For the millions who receive notice that their personal or financial data was stolen, a credit security freeze can offer peace of mind. For too long, we’ve had blind trust in the U.S. banking system when it comes to personal and financial information. No more. Chase Bank recently disclosed that 67 million of its customers’ names, email addresses, phone numbers and addresses were breached. (Author’s note: I am one of the affected customers.) There’s no telling how long it will take for the fallout from this to be sorted out.

Stolen financial data and personal information can stay dormant for years until thieves purchase them; what will a one-year monitoring service from Target, Home Depot or any financial institution do? Nothing. Nada. Monitoring services will not protect your clients from identity theft, but credit security freezes will. For example, Life Lock paid $12 million to settle charges from the Federal Trade Commission and 35 states that identity theft prevention and data security claims were false.

Credit security freezes are an ideal way for your clients to gain control of their financial and personal data by blocking anyone without their permission from accessing it. They’re priceless. Recommending a credit security freeze to your clients after the close of escrow—especially when an acrimonious divorce is involved—is a great way for you differentiate yourself from REALTORS® who are focused on transactions rather than relationships.

Nabil Captan is a national trainer and credit scoring expert.

Copyright 2014 Nabil Captan, Captan & Company. All rights reserved.

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