Identity theft is no joke. We’ve got a suggestion for how to prevent people from using your credit information for their own gain – and leaving you in the middle of a big mess. It’s called a credit report freeze. We’ll go over what a credit freeze is and how to freeze your credit report.
Why do you need to protect your credit report?
Your credit report shows patterns of payment that help lenders and creditors decide whether or not they want to issue a loan or line of credit to you. It contains a lot of sensitive personal identifying information that identity thieves can steal. They can do a lot of damage to your financial health in a very short time, which you may have discovered the hard way if you’ve ever been the victim of identity theft.
Bottom line: it’s important to know how to protect yourself from identity theft.
What’s a credit report freeze?
A credit report freeze stops creditors and lenders from pulling or checking your report. Basically, if a thief tries to apply for a credit card or loan in your name, odds are the application would be denied because a credit report check is usually required by the bank. So, they wouldn’t be able to use your name to open the account.
And thus, you throw a monkey wrench into the thief’s dastardly plan.
(Keep in mind that the freeze does not mean that a thief can’t use your existing accounts if they’ve already been stolen. It’s more of a proactive measure.)
How do I freeze my account?
There are three credit-reporting bureaus in the US – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. To fully freeze your credit report, you have to contact each one individually.
You can freeze your report at each bureau online, but you can also call them. Here’s the contact info:
You will have to provide some information before the freeze takes effect, such as your…
- Social Security Number
Once the credit bureau gets your request, they’ll tell you that the freeze went through. The will also give you a personal identifying number to help you control the credit freeze. Do try to keep that PIN safe.
Does it cost money to freeze your credit report?
Yes, there is a small fee to freeze your credit report, unfreeze your credit report temporarily, permanently lift the freeze, or change your PIN.
Pro tip: If you need a potential creditor or employer to see your credit report, try to find out which credit bureau they will pull your credit report from. That way you can thaw your report at that particular bureau instead of having to unfreeze it at all three.
However, if you are the victim of identity theft and you want to freeze your credit report, the fee will be waived and you can freeze your report for free. (You will probably have to provide proof of the theft, such as a copy of the police report, an identity theft report, or the DMV report. Just be sure to send a photocopy and not the original as the bureau will probably keep it.)
Will the freeze hurt my credit score?
Good question – your credit score can affect your home insurance rates.
The answer is nope, a freeze won’t hurt your credit score.
Who can still access my credit report?
There are still a few people or entities who can access your report.
- You. (You can still get your one free report from each agency every year.)
- Your current creditors or debt collectors working for them.
- Government agencies who have a court order, a subpoena, or a search warrant.
So, that’s Freeze-My-Credit-Report 101. If you’re worried about your identity and think you want to freeze your report, contact the three credit reporting bureaus. Your personal identifying information is valuable. Be sure to protect it.
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