At a time when identity theft is on the rise and people are concerned with how to protect themselves, it’s important to know the ins and outs of specific security measures. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to always have visibility into your information; this way you’re being proactive with your finances, rather than reactive.
Another way you can protect yourself is by heightening the level of security around your information. For example, did you know there’s a way to prevent someone from applying for a credit card or a loan in your name?
A credit freeze – also referred to as a security freeze - is something you can request from each credit bureau (Experian, Equifax and Transunion) to essentially seal your credit report. This freeze makes your credit report inaccessible, unless you give specific authorization with a password or personal identification number. It’s like putting a padlock on your credit profile - and has been used by some as a method for identity protection.
Here’s a quick Q&A about what a credit freeze is and how you can apply for one or lift it.
What’s the difference between a credit freeze and a fraud alert?
With a fraud alert, a notice is placed on your credit file requesting creditors to verify your identity before issuing any credit in your name. This usually involves a phone call. A credit freeze, on the other hand, completely locks your credit file, preventing anyone from accessing it.
Is there a cost associated with putting a freeze on my report?
Yes, there is. It typically costs anywhere from $3 to $10, per bureau, to freeze your credit report. However, if you’ve recently been a victim of identity theft, you may be able to apply a freeze at no cost. The costs vary by state, so check your state’s guidelines first.
How will a credit freeze impact my credit report?
[Free Resource: Check your free credit report and score]The good news is that a credit freeze protects you from someone accessing your credit report unless you give your consent. It also does not hurt your credit score in any way.
The bad news is a credit freeze can prevent YOU from having access to your own credit report. For example, if you want to access your totally free credit report and free credit score at Quizzle, you won’t be able to if you have a freeze on your file. You also won’t be able to open any retail credit cards or rent a car using a debit card (a credit card works fine).
Once my credit report is frozen, how do I lift it?
It varies for each bureau, but you typically have two options: You can temporarily lift the freeze (some sites refer to this as “thawing”) or permanently lift it:
- Temporary lift– This method can be used when you need a third party to access your credit. A temporary lift typically lasts seven, 15 or 30 days.
- Permanent lift – As you might guess, this means you would like your credit information to be available for third parties without time restrictions. This is beneficial for people who plan to have their credit pulled often or would like to check their own credit regularly.
There may also be costs associated with lifting the credit freeze, so double check your state’s fees. This will prevent you from incurring any costs unknowingly.
Here are links to all three bureaus for more info about credit freezes and online forms to set them up:
The bottom line
If you just had your identity stolen, a credit freeze is a good way to protect yourself. However, if you want to have free access to your credit at all times and also be able to monitor it, it may be better to hold off for the time being.
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