We freeze our food for safekeeping, right?
But, have you frozen your financial files by putting a credit freeze in place? Probably eight out of ten times I ask a person this question, I am met with a blank stare.
“What is a credit freeze?”
Each year, tens of millions of Americans become victims to identity theft. And even though the crooks are working hard to build a financial data file on each of us, there actually IS something we can do to safeguard our financial identity.
And all it takes is a good, hard freeze.
What is a credit freeze?
A credit freeze means your credit files at the national credit bureaus are frozen. On lock-down. No longer accessible to anyone but you. A new credit line (an auto loan, credit card, mortgage etc) cannot be opened without you and only you ‘thawing’ your credit files.
It’s as if you hide your most important financial records away from prying eyes and crooked crooks. Like a top secret safe and only you know the combination.
In September of 2018, a new federal law guarantees a ‘Free Freeze’ for all. In the past, states could charge fees to freeze and thaw credit reports, but now this simple, yet very effective strategy is available to all for free.
This law also allows you to put a freeze in place for your under-16 child. If you are someone’s guardian, conservator or have a legal power of attorney, you can get a credit freeze for that person also.
How exactly does a credit freeze work?
Call or go online to Transunion, Experian and Equifax Credit Reporting Agencies and request a freeze. They must put the freeze in place within one business day.
If you need to apply for a loan or credit card, either call or go online to lift or ‘thaw’ the freeze in order for your credit file to be accessed by the creditor. This will go into affect within one hour or on the requested date range. You can also make the freeze request by mail, but it will be three business days after receiving the request before it goes into effect.
Remember, the credit freeze and credit freeze lift/thaw is FREE.
And I won’t lie to you, the credit reporting agencies don’t make it easy. You may have to scroll through a lot of offers to lock your credit, monitor your credit or any other various fee-only offers. The freeze IS there and it IS free by federal law, but you may have to search through a lot of non-free offers to find it.
Just keep in mind it is free. Period. F.R.E.E. That means no cost to you!
If you have been victim of identify theft, you can also place a one year fraud alert or an extended fraud alert for seven years. A fraud alert lets creditors know they must contact you before opening a new account. But the credit freeze is essentially the same thing and not limited by any time line.
Credit Bureau Contacts
Contact the national credit bureaus to request fraud alerts, credit freezes (also known as security freezes), and opt outs from pre‑screened credit offers.