Freezing your credit is one way to ensure that no new credit lines are opened in your name by you or any unknown party. Though considered an extreme measure, it can be a very effective tool in the fight against identity theft. Reversible and inexpensive, freezing your credit shuts out potential fraud by denying thieves access to your good credit.
Start With Your Credit Report and Credit Bureaus
Your credit report provides a good starting place for a credit freeze discussion. Credit reports give a complete profile of your open lines of credit, and this profile can let you see if unauthorized activities are taking place in your name. Your credit report will also remind you of the three major credit bureaus. Credit bureaus are the agencies who compile credit reports and who provide credit background information to those trying to approve new lines of credit, such as a bank, vendor, or car sales office. The three foremost credit bureaus are off course Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Things to Remember
Freezing your credit is a step by step process that can be followed in relatively short order. The requirements and regulations around freezing and unfreezing your credit do vary slightly state by state, so you will need to check for your own state’s regulations and guidance as you proceed. Also, the requirements vary slightly between the three major credit bureaus, but each provides instructions to consumers as required by law.
• It is important to freeze your credit with all three major credit bureaus. You need to do a blanket freeze with all three to ensure your credit is truly frozen.
• It is not in credit bureaus best interests to have you freeze your credit, because it means they can’t share your information for a fee with mailing lists and pre-approved credit vendors. Thus, they will often warn you that freezing your credit makes your credit life difficult. However, remember that freezing your credit only stops new lines; it has no effect on your existing accounts or financial habits.
• Credit freezes (also known as security freezes) are free to identity theft victims. All others will pay small fees, generally $10 or less, for the freeze. In some states, a second fee will be assessed to unfreeze the credit.
• Credit freezes are reversible.
• To freeze or unfreeze your credit, contact your credit bureau. Some will let you freeze credit over the phone based on PIN information, while others will require you to send a certified mail document with key identity information to them. The processing takes less than a week from the time the letter or call is received.