How and Why To Freeze Your Credit ReportsSubmitted by Reby Advisors | Certified Financial Planners | Danbury, CT on August 25th, 2017
Identity theft is a rare occurrence, but one that can cost you an immense amount of time, money, and energy. One of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent identity theft is by freezing your credit reports. This is also referred to as a ‘security freeze’.
When your credit reports are ‘frozen’, new creditors can’t access your credit reports and credit score. This means they won’t allow you to open up new accounts. More importantly, it means that potential identity thieves can’t apply for credit with new creditors in your name.
The term ‘security freeze’ sounds intimidating, but freezing your credit reports is not actually complicated. Requesting a security freeze is a relatively simple process, and one that can be reversed at any time.
In order to freeze your credit reports, you have to contact each credit bureau individually. You can visit their websites or phone them directly at the following links:
- TransUnion: Freeze Your TransUnion Credit Report, 1-888-909-8872
- Experian: Freeze Your Experian Credit Report, 1-888-397-3742
- Equifax: Freeze Your Equifax Credit Report, 1-800-685-1111 (NY residents 1-800-349-9960)
When phoning the bureaus or applying for a security freeze online, keep all your important personal information on hand, including your Social Security number. Each site will list the information you need to provide.
Each credit bureau will provide you with a personal identification number (PIN). Keep these PINs safe, as you’ll need them to lift your credit freeze at a later stage. If you lose your PIN, you can request another one – but you may have to pay a small fee.
When your reports are frozen, you can’t take out credit. Because of this, it’s advised that you only freeze your credit reports if you don’t plan on taking out credit in the near future. You can always have your credit freeze lifted by contacting the credit bureaus. This will incur a small fee of between $5 and $20. If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, freezing your reports should be free.
While a new creditor won’t be able to access your reports, some entities will still have access. Even when you’ve requested a security freeze:
- You can still access your own credit reports.
- Government entities can access your credit reports.
- Your current creditors can still access your credit reports. A security freeze can’t prevent you – or an identity thief – from making charges to your current accounts.
If you’re concerned about identity theft, but you don’t want to freeze your reports, consider requesting a fraud alert. A fraud alert will instruct creditors to contact you before taking out credit in your name.
As always, it’s important to remember to keep personal information, like your Social Security number, private. If you suspect you’ve been a victim of identity fraud, contact the credit bureaus immediately. When it comes to identity theft, rather be safe than sorry!