Having your identity stolen is a scary, but very real possibility. If you freeze your credit report could save you time and headaches. Identity theft can ruin your credit score, cost you money, and cause you many sleepless nights.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to protect yourself against identity theft is by freezing your credit reports. This is also known as a ‘security freeze’. Contrary to popular belief, freezing your credit reports is actually a very simple (and reversible) action. Some credit monitoring companies also offer identitity theft insurance:
What are Credit Reports?
Credit reports are reports with information about your individual credit score and credit history. When you request credit from a bank or store, they will take a look at your credit reports to determine whether they’ll grant you credit.
When identity theft happens, the thief attempts to take credit out in your name. The bank or store will go through the exact same processes before granting this person credit. When you freeze your credit reports, the bank or store won’t be able to access your credit reports – and therefore, they won’t be able to give out credit on your behalf.
How Do You Freeze Your Credit Reports?
You have to contact each credit bureau individually to request that your credit reports are frozen. Take note of the following numbers and website links, which will tell you exactly how to contact each credit bureau:
- Equifax: Freeze Your Equifax Credit Report, 1-800-685-1111 (NY residents 1-800-349-9960)
- TransUnion: Freeze Your TransUnion Credit Report, 1-888-909-8872
- Experian: Freeze Your Experian Credit Report, 1-888-397-3742
When contacting the credit bureaus, make sure you have your personal details – including your social security number – on hand.
Each bureau will provide you with a PIN. You’ll need these PINs for when you attempt to reverse your credit freeze, so write them down and keep them safe. You can request another PIN if you lose yours, but you’ll have to pay a fee.
Even after you freeze your credit reports, your current creditors and government entities will still be able to access your credit reports. You’ll still be able to take out more credit with your current creditors.
If you are unsure of your credit score, you ca easily check it here and start tracking it:
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How Do You Reverse Your Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze doesn’t only prevent identity thieves from taking out credit in your name – it also prevents you from taking out more credit in your name.
Fortunately, you can easily reverse the freeze by contacting each credit bureau and providing them with your PINs. It will cost a small fee somewhere between $5 and $20. Because of the fees, it’s better to apply for a credit freeze if you don’t plan on taking out further credit for the next few months or years.
If you’re concerned about identity theft, but you don’t want to freeze your reports, request a fraud alert. A fraud alert will instruct creditors to contact you before giving you credit.
There are a number of other simple actions you can take to protect yourself from identity fraud. Remember to always keep your social security number private, and contact the credit bureaus if you think you may have been a victim of identity theft. You may protect yourself from it if you keep track of your credit score and sign up for one of the online companies that offer identity theft insurance.