Not so long ago, locking your car doors and installing a home security system were considered gold standards to protect yourself against theft. As the world evolves and technology advances, however, we need to bolster our strategies to mitigate the threats we cannot see.
About one-third of Americans have been the victim of identity theft at some point in their lives. Most of those did not find out their identity was stolen until well after the crime had occurred.7
There are plenty of tools available to combat identify thieves, but few are quite as simple and effective as placing a security freeze, also known as a credit freeze, on your credit record.
Read on to learn how a couple of quick phone calls today can save you from a major headache in the future.
What is a Security Freeze?
A security freeze prevents creditors from accessing your credit reporting file. Because creditors typically will not offer a person credit if they cannot review your file, a security freeze is an action you can take to prevent an identity thief from opening a new credit card, loans, or services in your name without your permission.8
How Do I Freeze My Credit?
To place a freeze on your credit file, you will need to contact each of the three national credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The process is free, and it can be done over the phone or online.
Before you get started, it would be wise to review the types of personal information you may need to provide:
• Your full name, including middle initial and suffix, such as Jr., Sr. II, III
• Social Security Number
• Date of Birth
• Current address
• All addresses where you have lived during the past two years
• Email address
• A copy of a government-issued identification card, such as a driver's license or state ID card, etc.
• A copy of a utility bill, bank or insurance statement, etc.
When you request a security freeze, you will be given a personal identification number (PIN) or password from the credit reporting company. Be sure to store that information in a safe and secure place.
What If I Actually Am Applying For Credit?
Perhaps you are purchasing a new car or home and need your credit report available for your lender. Don't worry, there is not a bunch of red tape to get through in order to make that information available to the right people.
You can choose to have your security freeze removed, or even provide dates for a temporary lift on your credit freeze by contacting each company and providing the PIN or password you had received when you first placed the freeze. You should have your credit freeze lifted within the hour.9
Can I Protect My Kid's Credit?
Federal law does allow guardians to request a security freeze for "protected consumers" under the age of 16.9 It's never too early to protect you kids against identity theft!