Because Privacy and security are so often under attack, taking necessary precautions to protect your credit history and FICO score is critical to preventing fraudulent transactions and identity theft.
By now you’ve had the opportunity to freeze your credit with each of the bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. A freeze locks down your credit report, making it impossible for the credit agencies to sell your data and prevents potential hackers from opening accounts in your name without your permission.
A freeze will not impact your score, but should you want to open any accounts, apply for work, purchase insurance, or get your free annual credit report, you’ll need to first unfreeze your account, if only temporarily, to allow a potential lender, landlord, or employer to review your credit history. During a freeze, your current creditors or debt collecting agencies still have access, as do government agencies.
Freezing your account is free with Equifax, you may need to pay a fee of $5 or 10 dollars with the other buereaus. And while you can freeze your account online, you’re better off contacting the agencies directly by phone.
When you call you’ll be asked to provide your name, address, date of birth, and social security number. Each of the credit agencies will give you a personal identification number (PIN) or password. You’ll also receive a confirmation letter in the mail. Be sure to keep your password or PIN in a special place as you’ll need it to unfreeze your account in the future.
While it varies from state-to-state, your account will stay frozen until you choose to lift the freeze. Some states will automatically lift a credit freeze after seven years, so be sure to ask how long your account will remain frozen when you call. You can temporarily remove or lift for a lender to view your report, or you can lift a freeze permanently. These agencies must lift the freeze within three business days by law. Make sure you have your PIN or password handy.
Identity theft is a something to take seriously. Maintaining good credit is the key to better rates and terms on everything from home and auto loans to equity lines of credit and credit cards. Be vigilant. Use secure passwords and update them regularly. These tactics, along with checking your credit score annually, are your first line of defense.