Status Of Quarantines In The Philippines

Status Of Quarantines In The Philippines



Passing this message along from the US Embassy:

Starting Sunday, January 3, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., the Philippines will temporarily ban the entry of travelers from, or who have transited through, the United States. Passengers coming from the United States or who have transited through the United States who arrive before Sunday should be allowed to enter the Philippines, but will be required to complete a 14-day facility-based quarantine regardless of their RT-PCR test result.   

 

Health Alert for U.S. Citizens in the Philippines:  Updated Travel Information Related to the Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

 

Through January 15, 2021, the Philippine government has suspended all flights from the United Kingdom and will bar entry to travelers originating or transiting from the following locations:  the United Kingdom, South Africa, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Israel, Hong Kong, Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Singapore, Lebanon, Japan, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Australia, France, Iceland, and South Korea. 

 

Passengers already in transit, or who were in any of the locations listed above within 14 days of their arrival in the Philippines, and who arrive before December 30, 2020, will be allowed entry but are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine, regardless of a negative RT-PCR result. 

 

For more information, see the Manila International Airport Authority website

 

The Philippine government also announced that the following quarantine classifications will be in effect through January 31, 2021:

 

General Community Quarantine (GCQ): 

 

Luzon – National Capital Region (Metro Manila), provinces of Batangas, Isabela and Santiago City; 

Visayas – cities of Iloilo and Tacloban; and 

Mindanao – Iligan City, Lanao del Sur, Davao City, and Davao del Norte.   

 

All other areas are placed under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ). 

 

As a reminder, the Philippine government mandated all persons to wear full-coverage face shields together with face masks while in public places. Local governments continue to implement additional requirements to slow the virus’ spread. For more information, please see our COVID-19 information page

Christians Deceived By Promises Of "Your Rights"

Christians Deceived By Promises Of "Your Rights"

 


Mt 5:11  [Blessed are ye, when men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

2Ti 3:12  Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

Over the last few centuries there has been an agenda to lead masses of people by proclamations of human rights and freedom. These movements are always lies. I understand the appeal. My "rights" appeals to my flesh. 

But understand that you have no rights in this fallen world.

Genesis 3:16 ¶  Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. 17 ¶  And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed [is] the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat [of] it all the days of thy life; 18  Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;19  In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou [art], and unto dust shalt thou return.

This world and our life in it are cursed, but those who have no hope outside of this world tell us otherwise.

They promise justice, but there will never be any justice in this fallen world.

They promise Utopia, but there will never be any Utopia in this fallen world.

The wicked shall always prosper in this world until the Lord makes a final end of this world and raises up a new earth in its place.

Christians should not be dragged into any struggle for their Constitutional rights or any other kind of rights.

The first Church is the example. At any time did any of them petition Caesar for their rights when he was persecuting them? Did they protest the Jews for persecuting them?

Well, did they?

Promises of your rights are a distraction, a deception and a delusion.

Rights are part of the "cares of this world":

(GWV)Mark 4:18  Other people are like seeds planted among thornbushes. They hear the word, 19  but the worries of life, the deceitful pleasures of riches, and the desires for other things take over. They choke the word so that it can’t produce anything.

I understand this is much easier said than done. We all desire comfort and ease. None of us enjoys even little annoyances much less major affronts to our rights. But it is still the truth and Christians need to know it and think about it, as we go into the coming storm.

In the meantime, turn down your karaoke before I have to come over there, buddy.


Jack Nicklaus (80) Had Coronavirus

 Jack Nicklaus (80) Had Coronavirus

 

Golf legend, Jack Nicklaus, talks about his run in with the lab made contagion:
“Sure, I was concerned. I took hydroxychloroquine. Gone in two days.”
 
“The hospital gets more money with COVID death than they do another death. I’m sure there’s been a lot of that.”

The criminals who walk in our midst have become very brazen in this late hour. Mr. Nicklaus' last two sentences hold a bitter black pill that you need to swallow and comprehend.

US Passport Photo Requirements

Passport Photo Requirements

 


 
The United States Embassy in Manila has released a notice to the public in regard to the poor quality of photos that they have been receiving with passport applications. The notice states that poor quality photos are the number one reason for passport delays. 

I personally have found that being proactive with quality assurance is quite necessary in making sure that I get acceptable passport images (or images for any other use).

If you have the proper equipment and setting, then you can produce your own passport images by following the Passport Photo Guidelines provided by the U.S. State Department.
 
The top five reasons for passport images being rejected by the U.S. Embassy:
  • Photo is digitally edited or retouched – Do not alter or edit your passport photo. This includes airbrushing the background to make it appear whiter (as this sometimes affects the shape of the head) and photoshopping of attire. Your passport photo should be the best likeness of you; do not use filters commonly used on social media.
  • Eyeglasses – Please remove your glasses for your passport photo, even if you normally wear them. If you cannot remove your glasses for medical reasons, please include a signed note from your doctor with your application.
  • Photo is more than six months old – Your photo must have been taken within six months of submitting your passport application.
  • Head size is incorrect – Often, the photo has been taken from too close or too far away. The head should be centered in the photo and sized between 1 inch and 1.4 inches (2.5 cm and 3.5 cm).
  • Poor-quality image or photos – We cannot use blurry, grainy, or pixelated photos, or photos that are not printed on photo-quality paper. Your photos should always be clear and as high-resolution as possible. 
This information is good to keep in mind not just for your US passport photos, but for any and all images that are required for IDs and other purposes. Size and background color of images may vary depending on the use.

2020 Philippines Census: Expats Count

2020 Philippines Census




It Is Census Time Again In The Philippines


The Census begins and ends in the month of September.

Census taker was one of the hats I wore when I was working through college. I am well aware of the very common antipathy for filling out the Census questionnaire.

Did you know that in the US you can be fined for refusing to fill out the Census questionnaire?

The Philippines also takes the Census very serious, so serious that Section 25 of  Republic Act 10625 is referred to twice on the front of the Census questionnaire:

Obligation to Provide Information. – The National Statistician shall determine whether a statistical inquiry or survey to be conducted is with or without an obligation to provide information. If such obligation is stipulated, all respondents whether natural or legal persons shall be liable to reply to the statistical inquiry or survey. This section applies to all statistical inquiries or surveys conducted by other statistical offices in the PSS.
A lot of times the Census takers like to sit down with each individual and fill out the form. The Census taker will probably be someone you know who is from your own community, so they will probably let you have a copy to fill out at home at your leisure. 

There is nothing too invasive about any of the questions, but I understand the appeal to personal privacy that some people may put up. 

Still, responding to the Census is the law of the land and as the front page of the questionnaire states, under RA 10173 data privacy does not apply to the material you are asked to disclose for the Census.

Your answers are confidential, but like I said there is nothing too juicy in there. Your neighbors probably all know that you have a flush toilet and a fridge.

After you complete the process, the Census taker will place a sticker on your residence noting that you have been counted.   

Philippines Expat Guide To Returning To The USA

Philippines Expat Guide To Returning To The USA





Table Of Contents:

 

Things Change


Have you been living in the Philippines for five or ten years?.

Has you US state driver's license expired?

Have you cancelled your US credit cards? Do you know what your current credit profile looks like?

Many things can change what we thought was a permanent move to the Philippines.

Maybe you have a son or daughter who will go to college in the US. 

Or maybe you just decided that you want to work again.

Returning to the US after a decade living in the Philippines can be a challenge.

Before you move to the Philippines you should a contingency plan for a return to the United States, because everything changes with time. 

You Will Need Credit To Travel


Don't wait until the last minute to consider your credit profile. It can take a long time to fix a problem that you don't even know that you have.

Do you have a low credit limit. Do you have bad credit? Do you know? I suggest getting acquainted with your credit report and score.

Don't wait. You should be doing that now.

It could take anywhere from days all the way to eternity to get your credit shaped up for a trip back to the US, depending upon your situation.

If your credit profile is in particularly poor shape or you do not have any active credit accounts, then you may need to start building it up with a secured credit card:
A secured credit card is a type of credit card secured by a deposit account owned by the cardholder. Typically, the cardholder must deposit between 100% and 200% of the total amount of credit desired. Thus if the cardholder puts down $1,000, they will be given credit in the range of $500–1,000. In some cases, credit card issuers will offer incentives even on their secured card portfolios. In these cases, the deposit required may be significantly less than the required credit limit, and can be as low as 10% of the desired credit limit. This deposit is held in a special savings account. Credit card issuers offer this because they have noticed that delinquencies were notably reduced when the customer perceives something to lose if the balance is not repaid.
After a few years of little to no activity on your credit report you become an unknown risk to the card companies. Credit cards that you maintained a good payment history with will give your credit rating a boost for up to ten years after having been closed. The bad ones only stay on the record for seven years. 

A secured card is one of your options when you have few credit options. It may take a year or two but you can build that initial secured card with a $500 limit into a couple of unsecured cards with a $10,000 limit or more.

A $10,000 credit limit is the low end of what I would consider as necessary for a return to the states (augmented by cash reserves and ongoing income). More would be better. You need to determine what you need and start working to get your credit limit and cash reserves up to that number.

Most of the big ticket items involved with return to the states require a credit card or work a lot easier with one than without one.

estimate of return cost

Rental Car Insurance


The collision damage waiver and liability insurance that rental car companies offer at the time of your rental can be a little pricey. Normally, you would be covered by the insurance that you have on your daily driver auto. However, if you have been living in the Philippines for years that likely does not apply.

Many credit cards will provide the collision damage waiver as a free benefit if you book the rental with the card. You need to become well acquainted with the fine print in your card’s policies regarding what is and is not covered by the “free” CDW that comes with your card. And remember that you still need liability coverage.

Keep in mind that if you do damage the rental car you will have to settle that cost before you can file any claim.

This is true even if it's the other guy's fault.

If you rent a $25,000 vehicle and total it, then you may be asked to settle that expense plus other costs with the rental company immediately. Can your card limit handle it?

Liability Insurance is at least as critical as CDW. I would not want to start off my return to the states by having to pay tens of thousands of dollars due to an accident for which I did not have liability insurance.

Rental Vehicle Insurance Options


Buy Insurance From The Rental Car Company


You can purchase liability and or collision damage waiver (CDW) insurance from the rental company. Each one will cost approximately $10 per day. Be sure to understand exactly what is and is not covered by each insurance option that you purchase.

Maintain A Non-Owner's Auto Insurance Policy


In advance of traveling to the US and perhaps before you ever come to the Philippines you could acquire a non-owner's auto insurance policy. Apparently, there are people who maintain this type of policy, while living overseas. Non-owners auto insurance could be useful for intermittent rentals and also to make it easier to transition to an owner's policy when you buy. 

Your driving record is a lot like your credit record and even more sensitive to a blank spot. After a few years of lapsed coverage the insurance companies may evaluate you as the same way that they reckon someone with no driving history. They have to account for an unknown risk and they will do that with higher premiums. A non-owners policy will keep you on the books so that you never fall into the category of unknown risk.

Buy A Car Online


Avoid the rental car and find a permanent vehicle on a site like Cars Direct or Cars.com.

You can pick three or four vehicles a few days before arrival and then make the final decision in person. Work with an insurance agent before you ever get to the US to ensure that you are fully covered before you leave the sales lot.

I did this before and Cars Direct even picked me up from the airport.

Long Term Rental Housing


Many landlords require that you have a minimum credit score. What if you pick out a nice place only to discover that the landlord requires you to have a minimum credit score of 700 and you do not even know what yours is? You can prevent that by maintaining your credit, while living in the Philippines.

In planning for long-term rental calculate enough cash to cover first month, last month and security deposit and be prepared to pay this in cash - just in case. 

Driver's License


I do not want my US license to expire leaving me with no license at all, so before that happens I need to go down to the LTO and apply for a Philippine driver's license.

I have been busy updating because LTO is 404-ing a lot of pages. Be aware that things change fast and frequently.

Requirements for conversion of a foreign driver's license:
  1. Duly accomplished Application for Driver's License (ADL) form;
  2. Original and one (1) photocopy of passport with entry date of at least one (1) month and visa duration of at least twelve (12) months from date of application; 
  3. Original and machine copy of valid visa or Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) if the foreign applicant temporarily resides in the Philippines;
  4. Electronically transmitted medical certificate in LTO prescribed form (present original);
  5. Original and one (1) photocopy of valid foreign DL. If the foreign Driver’s License is not in English language, original and one (1) photocopy of official English translation; 
  6. Original copy of drug test result issued by DOH Accredited Drug Testing Center; 
The meaning of #2 above is that you must be in the Philippines at least one month before you apply for a license and when you apply you must have a visa that allows you to stay in the Philippines for at least one year beyond that date on which you are making your license application. This bars all temporary visas. If you do happen to slip through the cracks and get a license anyway beware. If you are stopped by the PNP they will probably seize your license.

If you are converting a foreign license that is valid, then no exams are required. If it is expired, then you will be subject to both practical and written exams.

In the US, when you apply for a license in a different state you must turn over your old license. This is NOT the case when you apply for a Philippine driver's license. Make sure that you get your US driver's license back.

The fee for conversion of a foreign driver's license is 752.63 PHP.

You can download the driver's license application or fill out a copy from your local LTO.

A Philippine driver's license is valid for five (5)years:
Non-professional driver's licenses, professional driver's licenses and conductor's licenses shall be valid and effective for five (5) consecutive years reckoned from the birthdate of the licensee, unless sooner revoked or suspended.
Note the statement, "reckoned from the birthdate of the licensee." If you want it to be valid for a full five years, then apply on your birthdate, because the timer begins on your last birthdate not your next birthdate.

In most locations the medical certificate is required to be transmitted online directly from the examining physician to LTO:
PUBLIC NOTICE
LTO System hard validation of medical certificates will start on February 4, 2019 (Monday) in the NCR.
LTO-IT System will automatically prohibit transactions requiring medical examination certificates unless such are electronically uploaded.
Please ensure that the doctors where you get your medical certificates has already uploaded it to the LTO IT System before you proceed to LTO Office with the hard copy.
You can check/look at the computer screen to make sure of the uploading in the LTO IT System.
There may still be some locations that have not yet adopted online transmission, but they will eventually all require it. I am hearing that the exam fee ranges 500-600PHP.

LTO does have an online appointment system, but if you visit that site you will see that in order to use it you must input your existing Philippines driver's license number. You will not be able to use the online system for your initial license.

Be sure to follow the dress code whenever you visit any LTO office:


To avoid being scammed or misled be sure to avoid fake LTO websites, email addresses and FaceBook pages. Check the official LTO FaceBook for a listing of all legitimate sites for LTO.

Staying current with a Philippine driver's license may not make it easier  to get a US state driver's license, but at least you will be able to use it temporarily to get around. 

If you do not have a valid US state license, then be prepared to take all of the written & road tests for a state license. If you do have a valid state driver's license, then you will be required to turn it over (why?) if you are attempting to get a license in a different state. The good news is no tests! usually.

If you do have a Philippine driver's license, then you will be able to keep that. 

You will be required to establish residency according to state laws before applying for a driver's license.

Keep in mind during this time of COVID that the LTO may turn you away if you are older than 59 years of age.

Emigration Clearance Certificate


If you have been in the Philippines for many years, as I have, then you will be required to obtain an Emigration Clearance Certificate prior to leaving:
BI Spokesperson Elaine Tan said that based on airport statistics, foreign nationals who failed to present their ECCs comprised 33% of travelers who were denied departure. “It is unfortunate that we have to deny the travel of our foreign friends, but we have to implement the law”, Tan said.

Section 22-A of the Philippine Immigration Act provides that a foreign national who is about to depart from the Philippines temporarily or for good should seek clearance from the Commissioner of Immigration to insure that the foreign national has no pending obligation with the government of the Philippines.
Two Types Of ECC

The ECC-A is for those who are departing the Philippines permanently:
  • The following foreign nationals are required to secure regular ECCs at any of the 17 BI offices and present the same upon departure:
    • Holders of Temporary Visitor Visa (tourist visa) who have stayed in the Philippines for six months or more;
    • Holders of expired or downgraded immigrant or non-immigrant visas;
    • Holders of valid immigrant or non-immigrant visas who are leaving for good;
    • Philippine-born foreign nationals who will depart from the Philippines for the first time;
    • Holders of tourist visa with Order to Leave;
    • Seafarers who have stayed in the Philippines for 30 days or more.
  • Applications for regular ECCs shall be filed three days prior to departure and shall be valid for one month upon issuance. Foreign nationals must submit the following requirements upon filing of the application:
    • Application form;
    • Photocopy of passport (bio page, visa pages, latest arrival);
    • Original and photocopy of ACR I-Card;
    • Photocopy of receipt of latest visa extension;
    • Photocopy of order of downgrading (if applicable);
    • Five pieces 2x2 photo
According to BI Order No. SBM-2015-00, you may apply for your ECC-B at the airport if you:
a) Are leaving the country within twenty-four (24) hours and with Boarding Pass;
b) Stayed in the Philippines for six (6) months but not more than one (1) year;
c) Are a holder of a valid Temporary Visitor’s Visa (TVV);
d) Have no pending obligation with the Government, its instrumentalities, agencies and subdivisions, and have no pending criminal, civil or administrative action which by law requires your presence in the Philippines; and
e) Are registered under the Alien registration Program (ARP) and were issued a Special security Registration Number (SSRN).
The airport ECC-B is also available for holders of valid immigrant or non-immigrant visas who have an ACR-I card and intend to return to the Philippines.

Fees for ECC:
  • 1210 PHP (approximately) 
  • Additional fees may be charged if the foreign national is found to have arrears.
If you get an ECC-A, then make certain that you get both a receipt for payment AND the actual ECC certificate.

Even though the BoI directive states that, as a 13a holder, I can obtain my ECC at the airport I am a little concerned about leaving that to chance and being told something different when I get to the airport. Having never done this before, I still want to talk to BoI about it to put my mind at ease.

I googled "Emigration Clearance Certificate" and read everything I could find about other people's experiences.

Travel Documents Required For Dual Citizens


According to the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs, it is possible for dual nationality holders to depart the Philippines with only a foreign passport if they present a Philippine citizenship document (like a certificate of naturalization):
Filipinos with dual or multiple citizenships are advised to present both their Philippine and foreign passports in order to avoid paying the Emigration Certificate Clearance (ECC) fee. This is also to ensure that all arrival and departure records are reflected completely on both passports. Those who had only presented only a foreign passport at the time of their admission into the Philippines may be cleared for departure without need of surrendering a certificate, permit or proof of payment of imposable immigration fees, provided they present, at the time of departure, a genuine and valid Philippine passport or an Identification Certificate.

On the foreign passport, the immigration officer shall stamp either of the following, whichever is applicable: “PP” – if a Philippine passport is also presented, or “IC” – if an Identification Certificate is presented.

If the traveler fails to present both his Philippine passport or Identification Certificate, at both arrival and departure, he shall be assessed an Emigration Certificate Clearance (ECC) fee of P710.00 for using a foreign passport upon departure.

So this can be done. But the question now is should it be done. I do not want to take the chance of getting to the airport and running into a customs officer who, for whatever reason, does not want to accept anything that is not a passport.

If at all possible GET A PHILIPPINE PASSPORT for everyone in your traveling party who needs one and do not rely upon a citizenship document to exit the Philippines.

Traveling Cash


When you depart the Philippines for the US (or any foreign country) it will be necessary to have a certain amount of both Philippine currency and currency for your destination country.

There are limits for how much currency you can physically transport out of the Philippines:

Philippine Peso Limit:

A person may bring into (import) or take out of (export) the Philippines, either physically or by electronical transfer, legal tender Philippine currency of an amount not exceeding PHP 50,000 (fifty thousand pesos, Philippine currency) without prior authorization from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. The monetary forms include legal tender Philippine notes and coins, checks, money order and other bills of exchange drawn in Philippine Pesos against banks operating in the Philippines.

The increase to PHP 50,000 in the allowable amount of Philippine currency brought in or out of the Philippines took effect on 15 September 2016, per Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Circular No. 922, series of 2016, dated 23 August 2016, titled “The Amendments of the Rules on Cross-Border Transfer of Local Currency”.

Any excess amount not covered by specific written BSP authorization is subject to confiscation by the Philippine Bureau of Customs.

Foreign Currency Limit:

A person may carry up to the amount of USD 10,000 (or equivalent in any other foreign currency), in cash or other monetary instruments, into and out of the Philippines. Other monetary instruments include travellers’ checks, other checks, drafts, notes, money orders, bonds, deposit certificates, securities, commercial papers, trust certificates, custodial receipts, deposit substitute instruments, trading orders, transaction tickets and confirmation of sale/investment.

If a person wishes to bring more that the equivalent of USD 10,000, a written declaration must be made in the form of the BSP’s “Foreign Currency and Other FX-Denominated Bearer Monetary Instruments Declaration Form” which may be downloaded from http://www.bsp.gov.ph/regulations/regulations.asp?type=1&id=631.
I would count on at least 10,000 PHP in airport fees for every person in the traveling party and as much USD as I would be comfortable carrying without having to declare it.

Philippines Expat Guide To Credit & Identity Protection

This post is specific to expats in the Philippines who are US citizens.

Free Annual Credit Report 


Whether or not you are planning to move abroad or not you should be monitoring your credit. Fortunately it is becoming easier to keep track of your credit and credit score due to the proliferation of services that allow you to do that and many of them are free.

If you are not already doing so, then you should be requesting a copy of your free annual credit report from the big three credit agencies. You can get that same link directly from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). As the name states, you are entitled under federal law to receive one free report once annually.

Fraud Alerts (To Protect Your Credit) 


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) outlines some special circumstances that also allow you to gain access to free credit reports, such as Fraud Alerts and Credit Freeze:


The Initial Fraud Alert used to be only 90 days, but a new law passed in 2018 bumps that up to one year. If you Place a Fraud Alert with one of the credit bureaus they will in turn contact the other bureaus on your behalf. A Credit/Security Freeze is different. You must contact each credit bureau individually in order to place a Security Freeze.

Contacting the Credit Bureaus:


Depending upon your circumstance, you may have issues with any one or all of the credit bureaus in relation to accessing your report online. 

When you contact a credit bureau they will ask you for personal data and details for existing credit/bank accounts in order to confirm your identity.

If you have been living overseas the credit bureaus may need for you to contact them by post mail and or by telephone to further confirm your identity. 

They still may not be able to allow you online access. It has been my experience that Transunion is the most accommodating of the three.

Contact info for the credit bureaus: 



Credit Monitoring


TransUnion's True Identity Service 


True Identity allows you to view and lock your credit report for free. True Identity will also send you instant SMS updates when there are new requests for credit in your name. Transunion also provides $25,000 in ID theft insurance at the free level.

I can confirm that the Transunion credit report that you get from True Identity does have all of the right data and it is up to date, at least in my case.

You must upgrade to a paid membership with True Identity to gain access to your other two credit reports and to see to your credit score. A paid subscription will also give you the ability to monitor your ID on the black market. A aid subscription also expands ID theft insurance to $1,000,000.

Experian Credit Monitoring Service 


Experian's credit monitoring service will give you your FICO 8 score for free. The FICO 8 score is the same score that True Identity uses.

Upgrading to a paid membership with Experian gives you access to credit scores and reports from all three credit bureaus. Paid membership also allows you to lock your Experian credit report and receive alerts (Transunion provides this service for free). You also receive $1,000,000 ID theft insurance at the paid level.

The credit locking service offered by Experian is only available if you upgrade, unlike True Identity's Credit Lock. However, you can take advantage of the Experian Security Freeze that they are required to provide for free.

Experian CreditLock vs. Standard Security Freeze:

  • A security freeze requires that you enter a PIN code and verify your identity every time you want to change the status.
  • A security freeze does not include monitoring or alerts of attempted credit inquiries the way Experian CreditLock does.
  • Experian CreditLock allows you to block access to your credit file and you can lock and unlock your file easily and quickly.
  • Experian CreditLock includes daily monitoring and attempted inquiry alerts if someone applies for credit while your File is locked. Keep in mind that the lock only applies to that particular company's respective report.

Equifax Credit Monitoring Service


I have never been able to get the Equifax credit monitoring service free accounts to work for me.

Lock & Alert and Freeze & Fraud Alerts are free options. Additional services require a paid subscription.

Summary Of Credit Bureau Credit Monitoring Services


I can see no reason to pay for credit monitoring.Your experience may be different, but everything that I need to do with credit monitoring I can do for free:
  • monitor credit report and attempts to gain a credit account in my name and
  • monitor my credit score (Experian is the only one that offers it for free*) 
  • place fraud alerts on my report for a year at a time or
  • place a freeze on my report shutting down all attempts to get credit in my name (almost)
 

Security Freeze Update 

 
I recently did some research into removing my personal data from the sites all over the web that sell it and spread it. You may already know that there are scores and perhaps hundreds of personal data brokering websites. You need to contact each one of them individually to have your information removed. You can take a big bite out of the task by hitting the big ones as laid out in these instructions.

These sites get your personal data from the credit bureaus and the credit bureaus can only see activity on your US domestically held credit cards etc. US credit bureaus and data brokers will not keep track of your foreign address, phone number or any foreign loan and credit card information.

Is there a way to block block data brokers from picking up your trail when you return? Maybe.

Ideally, a security freeze should keep unwanted data brokers out of my credit files. This may not always be the case:
Can prospective employers, insurance companies and service providers (such as cellular phone companies) still access my report if it is frozen?
 
Federal law does not require the freeze to keep out non-credit-granting individuals and companies, but the credit bureau might have a policy of doing so. Plan ahead to lift the freeze, if necessary. 
And from the same article:
Your information also may still be used for the purposes of prescreening for pre-approved offers of credit or insurance even if a security freeze is on the report. A freeze may or may not keep out landlords, employers, insurance companies, wireless service providers and others, depending on credit bureau policy.
A great many entities still have the power to get their hands on my data even with a freeze. Can I be sure that none of them will sell my information to the very data brokers that I am trying to thwart? Maybe the only person I am inconveniencing with a security freeze is myself.

At any rate, a freeze is supposedly a stronger tool than a fraud alert for preventing thieves from opening new lines of credit in your name.

Section 301 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act extended the fraud alert effective period from 90 days to one year. That same section also made placing, lifting and removing a security freeze free of charge. 

As stated previously, you must request a freeze with each bureau. This stands in contrast to the process of placing a fraud alert that will propagate to the other two bureaus when you request an alert with any one bureau. When you request a security freeze by mail it takes three days to implement (from the time they receive the request). If you call each bureau, then the credit bureau must implement the freeze within an hour.

What a credit freeze can do: 
  • provide greater protection against thieves opening NEW accounts
vs. what a freeze cannot do: 
  • prevent thieves from draining my bank account
  • prevent thieves from running up my existing credit cards
  • guarantee that data brokers will not get my data

     

    Free Credit Monitoring Options From Banks 


    Experian is the only credit bureau to give you free access to your credit score, but there are other ways to get it for free. 

    Maybe the US bank that you are using right now offers free credit monitoring and credit score.

    Capital One provides a free service called CreditWise that allows you to monitor your Transunion credit report and VantageScore 3.0. The VantageScore 3.0 is based upon a different model from the FICO score. The VantageScore 3.0 could be, for instance, 60 points lower than the FICO 9 score.

    CreditWise recently began offering three new services:
    • Social Security number tracking: tracking instances where someone attempts to use your Social Security number to apply for credit
    • Dark web monitoring for pieces of your personal information turning up on the dark web and
    • Alerts for new account attempts from both Transunion and Experian 
    It is possible for anyone to sign up for True Identity CreditWise whether or not they are a Capital One account holder, but you might be better served by signing up for True Identity (above) instead.

    If you do have existing accounts with Capital One, then you can use your login credentials for those accounts to sign in to CreditWise.

    Wells Fargo  provides the Experian FICO 9 credit score tracking to their customers free of charge. 



    US Government Websites That May Help Protect Your Credit & Identity






    The Internal Revenue Service


    If you want to see your current tax account, then you can create a personal account on the IRS website:
      
    create an online IRS account to manage your taxes


    If you're an individual taxpayer, you can use this tool to view:
    • Your payoff amount, updated for the current calendar day
    • The balance for each tax year for which you owe
    • Up to 24 months of your payment history
    • Key information from your current tax year return as originally filed.
    Once you have viewed your information, you can:
    • Select an electronic payment option
    • Go directly to Get Transcript without having to log in again 
    After you click the link to create an account, at some point before you enter your personal information you will be informed exactly what you need to prepare in order to register for an account:


    personal information needed for IRS online account


    credit information needed for IRS online account


    US mobile phone needed for IRS online account

    The last screen is where a lot of expats will have an issue. Many expats may not maintain a US based text capable phone. And Google Voice and other “virtual” options are not accepted. You must use a cell phone number that is connected to a monthly billing account that will show up on your credit report under your name.

    You can receive your IRS tax transcripts online or by postal mail.

    You can view your historical tax transcripts online if you already signed up in the previous step or you can sign up now:


    get your IRS tax transcripts onlinie

    Or receive your tax transcripts via post mail:


    get your IRS tax transcripts via snail mail

    A transcript viewing account has the same sign up requirements as the current tax account, but again, if you already signed up for the current tax account you should be good to go.

    For me the road block is the SMS capable US based mobile phone “with your name on the account,” as I am sure it is for many other expats.

    The Social Security Administration


    Sign up for an account on the Social Security Administration website to view your Social Security Statement and contribution history.

    The Social Security website used to require that account holders possess an SMS capable phone for 2-step authentication, but that has been made optional.

    They can send the code to your email address if you prefer.     


    My Social Security online account actions

    With your “my Social Security” account you can:
    • View your Estimated Benefit
    • View your Earnings Record
    • Print your current Social Security statement
    • Get a Benefit Verification Letter
    • Request a replacement Social Security Card 
    Viewing your earnings record is vital to making sure that no one else is using your SS number.

    E-Verify 


    You can use E-Verify to lock your Social Security number making it impossible for anyone to use your number when applying for work with employers who use E-Verify. You can also view the history and current use (if any) of your number. The down side is that only about 20% of US employers use E-Verify, as it is not required.


    I was able to get in, lock my number and view the history.

    This graphic from the E-Verify website shows what an individual can do with their account:


    My E-Verify online account features

    In the course of signing in to the system I was prompted to input personal and contact information. I had done this last year, but E-Verify has been upgraded and my old account needed to be reassessed.

    As part of the upgraded security a soft pull on my credit report was initiated in order to confirm my identity, which is good. After that I was taken to my account showing these choices:


    My E-Verify online account options

    E-Verify could be a good tool to add to your identity protection portfolio. The self lock and case history features are the tools that make it valuable to me, but they would be a lot more valuable if all employers were required to use E-Verify. After 14 months I was sent an email that self lock had expired.

    Many times I was not able to logon to E-Verify, including just now. It is midnight in the US, so maybe the server is down for maintenance/updates.

    I did not see any notification about it, but some government sites cannot be accessed over the weekend or at night etc. I figure that might explain not being able to access the site on occasion.

    If you decide to use E-Verify, then for best results I suggest accessing it during business hours on weekdays and not holidays and be prepared to answer questions about items on your credit report. The system appears to be constantly undergoing upgrades, so be patient.

    The Bottom Line 


    Most valuable services IMO:
    • Free credit monitoring services from US banks
    • My Social Security Website
    • One Year Fraud Alerts
    I was able to easily create an online account with the SS Admin and the information is straightforward and useful. My existing online account was all that I needed to see up-to-date credit report information from my US banks.

    Paid credit monitoring services are of little to no value to me because I can get everything they offer for free.

    The IRS website was difficult for expats to use before COVID. Now it is practically impossible.

    E-Verify is good in concept for protecting Social Security numbers from abuse, but until it is universally required it is not of much value. What is valuable is the ability to create an account and see whether or not your SS# is being abused...assuming the information is valid.

    In closing this post I just need to add that I suggest scanning all credit cards and IDs just in case they are ever stolen or lost. You can also read up on these suggestions to physically secure your sensitive documents and data. 
     

    A Final Warning 

     
    If you do not create your account on these government and credit bureau websites, then someone else just might do it behind your back. It happens.