Is a credit freeze right for you?

Why Freeze Your Credit?
Credit reports contain a bunch of information about you and your credit and payment history and patterns. It includes your addresses, current and past, your creditors, your social security number, any negative payments, credit scores, and a host of other very valuable information. If it’s stolen, it could be used against you for a whole host of purposes such as credit fraud, income tax fraud, or healthcare fraud. Perhaps even all of them. Someone could potentially become you.

What is Freezing Your Credit?
When you freeze your credit information, no one can pull your data from the credit bureaus; including you. That said, if you need to make it available for some reason, you can unfreeze it forever or for a temporary period of time; even for just a day. If you decide to freeze your credit, you will be required to unfreeze the data before applying for credit.

That seems simple, just unfreeze your credit on the rare occurrences you need a loan. There is a bit more to it though. You will likely also need to unfreeze your credit for other activities like renting an apartment, purchasing insurance and accepting a new job. 

When is it Good to Freeze Credit? In any of the following conditions, you may want to consider freezing your credit:
You have been an identity theft victim
Your social security number has been accessed without your authorization
You have been the victim of healthcare related fraud
Your payment card number(s) has been stolen
Your mail has been stolen
You have been a victim of income tax fraud
Your online accounts have been breached, whether or not they included your payment card information
You just want to protect yourself from becoming a fraud or identity theft victim
You don’t need and no one else needs immediate access to your credit reports

Does It Cost Anything?
No, it doesn’t. As a result of the Equifax data beach affecting nearly half the population of the U.S., Congress passed a bill requiring all states to make it free to freeze and unfreeze your credit.

Should I Freeze My Child’s Credit Report?
Yes. Children are the victims of identity theft as well.  In fact, a Javelin Strategy & Research Study found that 1 million children in the U.S. were victims of this last year. Two-thirds of them were under eight years old. Thieves can buy a child’s SSN on the dark web for $2, commit fraud, and no one may notice for years.

It’s a good idea to freeze the credit reports of all children until they are of age to use their credit.

How Can I Freeze My Credit Report?
The good news is that it has become very easy to do this. As of writing, all three of the major credit bureaus have put the link to freeze your credit on the front pages of their websites. TransUnion and Equifax have put it right at the top. Equifax has it toward the bottom.

You must do this for each bureau. It’s not a one and done situation for this. However, after you click the link to freeze on each site, it doesn’t take but a few minutes to make the request. Fill in your name, requested social security information, and other verification details, and you’re done.

If you prefer to call, you can do that too. Just be sure to get the current phone numbers off their websites directly.

Also remember that credit monitoring is not the same as a credit freeze. Credit monitoring still leave your credit report accessible. You will just receive notifications if someone tries to access it.

For more information, you can visit any of the credit bureaus or the FTC’s websites.