A credit freeze is one of the most effective tools consumers have to prevent future Identity Theft involving credit. In light of the recent Equifax data breach, it is extremely advisable to do so – ASAP! Think of a Credit Freeze as having an insurance policy that protects you from anyone trying to obtain credit in your good name.
A credit freeze allows you to actually ‘seal’ your credit reports. Therefore, no one, including cyber-thieves, can open up new lines of credit or get a loan – even if they have your social security number. Keep in mind that the Equifax breach exposed the Social Security numbers of 145.5 million U.S. citizens.
A credit freeze denies anyone else (except you) the ability to access your credit report. This prevents the bad guys from trying to establish new credit accounts or take out new loans, using your stolen information. If your credit file cannot be accessed, a lender will not be inclined to issue a new credit card or finance a new loan.
NOTE: Freezing your credit will not protect you from identity theft on your existing lines of credit, such as current loans or current credit cards. A freeze will not provide protection for any financial accounts that you already have open. Placing a credit freeze only protects you from future credit applications. In other words, if your current credit or debit card is lost or stolen, a thief can still steal from you, unless and until you shut down the affected account.
HERE’S HOW TO PLACE A CREDIT FREEZE
You’ll need to call or visit the websites of each of the three credit bureaus and request a Credit Freeze. Each credit bureau charges a small fee that varies by State. The cost in the State of AZ is $5.00 – per person – per credit bureau. Once a credit freeze is in place, it will remain frozen until you remove it or you temporarily ‘thaw’ or ‘lift’ the freeze.
Each credit bureau will assign a PIN (personal identification #) that you must be sure to keep in a safe place for later retrieval. The PIN will be required if you yourself ever want or need to personally apply for a new loan or credit.
If that occasion arises, you will need to temporarily ‘thaw’ or ‘lift’ your freeze, so that your personal application for credit can be processed by the lending institution. Therefore, you’ll need to contact the 3 credit bureau(s) and ‘lift’ the freeze for the number of days you need. Then, once the time expires, your credit file will automatically go back to being frozen again.
The fee to temporarily ‘thaw’ or lift’ a credit freeze will cost you $5.00 – per credit bureau. However, more-than-likely, you will only have to lift the freeze with just one of the credit bureaus. So, be sure to ask your would-be creditor which credit bureau they will use to check your credit.
EVERYONE NEEDS A CREDIT FREEZE
Keep in mind that each individual will need to place a credit freeze. Each person has their own credit file, which is paired with their social security number. So, a husband and wife will each need to place a freeze on their own credit file. Parents are also strongly advised to place a credit freeze on their children’s credit file too. Child ID Theft is a serious issue and very difficult to remedy.
Lastly, you must realize that a credit freeze cannot and will not protect you from other forms of identity theft – such as medical, tax or employment ID theft. These types of ID theft are much more difficult to protect yourself from, so you must always be ever vigilant.
Remember, your information is only as safe as the companies that store your data and then protect it from data breaches. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there were 1093 data breaches reported as of December 2016. We are well on our way to breaking that record in 2017.
CHANCES ARE YOUR DATA IS ALREADY OUT THERE!
You must accept the fact that with all the data breaches and the many millions of records already exposed, your personal information is being sold to the highest bidder on dark underground websites. When it comes to protecting yourself from ID theft, it is always best to take matters into your own hands and be proactive. Always treat your identity as a valuable asset that must be protected at all times!
Read my previous article about a Credit Freeze vs a Credit Lock
Contact Info for Credit Bureaus:
Equifax: 800-349-9960 or www.equifax.com
Experian: 888-397-3742 or www.experian.com
TransUnion: 888-909-8872 or www.transunion.com