Freeze Credit Reports

| October 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

Freezing your credit reports with the three major credit reporting companies (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian individually) can be one of the best ways to prevent someone from opening credit in your name. Without a freeze on your credit reports, a thief who has obtained your personal information (i.e. social security number, driver's' license number) can open a credit card or bank account or obtain a mortgage or another loan in your name.

Here are links to each of the company's pages to request a freeze:

In most states, placing a security freeze costs $3 per agency. If you apply for a credit card, mortgage, or auto loan you will have to unfreeze your credit report for another $3. Some rental properties, new cell phone service contracts, and store payment plans may require access to your credit reports also. Since data breaches are becoming a regular occurrence and Equifax has given away information on most of us, I consider freezing credit reports a requirement for all of us for the rest of our lives. Our personal data (social security numbers, drivers' license numbers, birthdates, and more) are available to criminals worldwide already. A $9 total fee and the few minutes and minor hassle to request a temporary lift in the freeze is a much better option than dealing with a stolen identity. A credit freeze does not prevent a thief from charging items and services to your existing credit cards, so it's important to continue monitoring credit card and bank accounts for fraudulent activity. If you are a victim of a credit card theft (for example, card numbers used at Target or Home Depot were stolen in recent years and card numbers used online at hacked sites are stolen every day), you'll need to contact your credit card issuer and request a new card and number be issued.

Each agency allows temporary lifts for companies to access your report. For example, you can have the freeze removed for two days or two weeks and then have it automatically freeze again without having to log on to the agency's website to begin the process again. If creating a temporary lift of the freeze, ask the requesting company which agency they use and how long they need it to be unfrozen and have the freeze restart as soon as possible outside of their required reporting window. Most situations will only require one to three days to check your credit. To remove a freeze, temporarily or permanently, you'll need the PIN you create (or are given) when you request the freeze. These PINs should be kept in a secure location, not on your computer that could be hacked.

The process only takes a few minutes per agency. After going to the above links, you can click on the links to request a freeze and then answer questions to verify your identity. Some of the questions can be challenging if they are obscure or from a long time ago.

As long as you are freezing your credit reports, it's a good time to check your free credit reports to verify no nefarious activity has taken place yet. See my post here for more tips on checking your credit reports: http://afcapitalmanagement.com/free-credit-reports/.

Another layer of protection against identity theft can be added by opting out of prescreen/preapproved credit card offers. Visit  https://www.optoutprescreen.com/opt_form.cgi to opt out. The site gives you the option for a permanent removal or a five-year removal. If you choose the five-year option, be sure to add a reminder to your calendar to renew it in five years, if not a few months sooner.

Filed Under: General-Finances, Spending


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