What is a Credit Freeze and should I use it?

Data breaches expose consumers’ Personally Identifiable Information (PII) at an alarming rate, and continue to place people at risk of identity theft and fraud.

What is a Credit Freeze?

 

A credit freeze (AKA security freeze) is a tool you can use to help protect yourself against credit fraud.
 
When you freeze your credit reports you are restricting access to these reports. This temporarily suspends anyone from accessing this information, which means neither you nor identity thieves can open new lines or credit or loans in your name.

Think of it as locking away a valuable item until you need it again. When that time comes, you can unfreeze your credit report and once again allow lenders access.

 

Should I use a Credit Freeze?

Whether you’re a victim of credit or identity fraud or choosing to be proactive against this type of crime, a freeze is a great option for protecting yourself.

 

This process is quick as once you contact the credit bureaus by phone or online they must put the freeze in place within 1 business day.

 

Here is the contact information for the three credit bureaus:

 

  • Equifax: Call 800-685-1111 or online
  • Experian: Call 888-397-3742 or online
  • TransUnion: Call 888-909-8872 or online
If you need to ‘thaw’ your credit, you can do this for a specified amount of time or leave it open until you freeze it again.

 

Another added benefit of a credit freeze is that it prevents the bureaus from selling your data, which should stop unsolicited mail / offers.

 

This simple process does not cost anything nor does it affect your credit score. If you want to freeze your credit, you need to do it at each of the three major credit bureaus.

 

Make sure you’re taking the proper steps to secure your information so that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

 

If you have any questions at all please call us at (800) 822-7120.
 
 

What is the difference between a credit freeze and a fraud alert?

Should you apply a credit freeze to your accounts, a fraud alert, or both? To make the right choice for you, you must understand how each one operates and how it effects your accounts.
 
A fraud alert requires that any lenders or creditors take reasonable steps to verify your identity before issuing new credit in your name. You certainly don’t have to be a victim of fraud to initiate a fraud alert. Rather, you can use this as a protective measure. A fraud alert lasts for 90 days; however, you can extend this. If you are a victim of identify theft and have filed the appropriate report, you can extend the fraud report for up to seven years.
 
To place a free fraud alert, contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) either online or by phone. The bureau that you contact is required to share the information with the other two bureaus. You can still open new accounts during a fraud alert as long as you provide suitable proof of your identity.
 
Compared to a fraud alert, a credit freeze offers more extensive protection. With a credit freeze, potential new creditors cannot access your credit report at all; therefore, they will not issue credit in your name. In most states a credit freeze is indefinite, but some states allow the freeze to expire after 7 years.
 
You cannot open any new accounts during the credit freeze nor can anyone access your credit report (including you). You must lift the freeze prior to applying for new credit. It is possible to re-establish the credit freeze, or to specify a period during which it should temporarily be lifted. Neither a credit freeze nor a fraud alert affects your current accounts; they only concern the opening of new lines of credit.
 
Use these tools in whatever way best fits your situation and comfort level, but make sure you understand how to use these tools, before you do, to avoid any credit surprises.
 
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a free consultation, click here.