Getting Comfortable With The Basics

Freezing Credit Is Now Free. Here’s Why You Should Do it Now.

Turning on a credit freeze is now more straightforward and more friendly to activate and temporally lift than ever. In addition, placing a security freeze on your account makes it difficult for criminals to use stolen data to open fraudulent accounts, or borrow money, in your name.

Credit bureaus gather and hold records of your accounts and the payment history credit card companies and lending institutions use to decide whether you’ll pay your bills. However, if your credit file is frozen, the bureaus won’t provide information to lenders unless you “thaw” the freeze using a (PIN) personal identification number.

Under the current federal law, credit freezes are free nationally for everyone. The three primary credit reporting bureaus, Equifax,  TransUnion, and Experian, now provide free credit freeze and un-freeze services. For credit freezes to work effectively, the freeze must be placed at all three bureaus.

The credit freeze process is not as easy as it could be. Consumers must place freezes at the three bureaus separately and keep track of three PINs. In addition, it’s impossible to know what credit bureau a lender might use; consumers must usually lift the freezes at all three bureaus when applying for new credit.

The three credit bureaus now provide smartphone apps consumers can use to freeze and thaw their credit quickly. They are available for both Apple and Android phones (At this time, I can only recommend the TransUnion apps, the other two bureaus apps try to upsell to paid products). Of course, consumers must be careful when using the website and apps; they may be used to market other fee-based products and services. However, you do not have to pay credit freezes are now entirely free.

Credit bureaus also offer s service called “credit lock,” which they promote as a more convenient way to protect your data. However, some of these offerings carry fees. Most consumer advocates favor freezes because the rules are set by law rather than by the credit bureaus themselves.

It’s also recommended to freeze your file at a less well-known reporting agency, the National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange (NCTUE). They provide credit information to some cell phones, pay television, and utility companies. (Consumers have had cellphone accounts opened in their names, even with freezes on their credit reports at the main bureaus.) Again, there is no cost for an NCTUE freeze.

The law allows parents to create and freeze credit files for children under 16 to prevent their identities from being used fraudulently. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission offers information on how to protect your children’s accounts.

Freezes will not protect you from all types of fraud, like a criminal using existing credit card numbers or pretending to be you online to claim your Social Security benefits. To help prevent those types of theft, check your credit card statements regularly for questionable charges. In addition, you should monitor an online Social Security account to prevent criminals from opening one first and diverting your benefit checks.

You should check your credit report periodically. Each credit bureau must provide one free annual report at (Having a security freeze will not prevent you from getting your free annual report. The FTC tells you how.) I suggest getting a report from one of the three bureaus every four months, rotating. These reports will help you keep an eye on your credit reports for free by only accessing each bureau once a year.
How to Get Your Annual Credit Reports From the Major Credit Bureaus by NerdWallet

Identity thieves can intercept new credit and insurance offers sent through US Postal mail to get your ID information. You can opt-out of receiving offers these offers for five years online or permanently if you use the mail-in form.

Visit to opt out for five years online or download a mail-in form to be permanently removed from the pre-approved credit and insurance offers.
> What is and is it Legit? by Fraud Guides

Visit these websites to set up security freezes:

In addition to the big three bureaus, you might also consider freezing access at the two smaller ones.

Identity theft resources at the FTC website

Protecting Your Identity

  • Credit Freeze FAQs – If you’re concerned about identity theft, data breaches, or someone gaining access to your credit report without your permission, you might consider placing a credit freeze on your report.
  • Financial Readiness in Times of Disaster – You’ve got batteries, a tank of gas, and water. Are your financial papers and personal documents stored safely in case of an emergency?
  • Protecting Your Privacy Online – Learn how to protect your privacy online and what to do if you or someone you know is dealing with online abuse or harassment.
  • Identity Theft Protection Services – Describes identity theft protection services you can buy and free and low-cost alternatives you can use to guard against identity theft and recover if identity theft occurs.

Identity Theft: Specific Issues

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