I’m FREEZING! And that’s a good thing. I was recently notified by a large financial institution that someone was trying to open a credit card in my name. And even though I don’t have an account with the institution, there were red flags that made them put the application on hold until they talked to me.
In that conversation, the customer service person suggested I consider freezing my credit report. I’d heard about freezing before but never gave it much thought until this brush with identity theft and possible damage to my credit rating.
A credit freeze is designed to prevent credit, loans and services from being approved in your name without your knowledge or consent. It prevents potential lenders from accessing your credit file as well as current and potential employers gathering information for background checks and security clearances. With a credit freeze you have to give permission before your credit report can be accessed.
A freeze can occasionally be inconvenient. For example, if you want to apply for new credit, you have to allow enough time to lift the freeze so the lender can access your credit report, and that can be a problem if you need credit quickly, as in the case of car loans or credit card applications.
Keep in mind:
- Security freezes need to be initiated and managed at each of the three credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
- A PIN code is required every time you want to freeze or unfreeze your credit. Depending on the agency, you can create your PIN or one will be created for you.
- You can freeze and unfreeze your credit report on each agency’s website
- You must have your PIN code to freeze and unfreeze and you will have a different PIN code at each reporting agency
- Freezing and unfreezing is free
Here are the links to each of the big three credit reporting agencies’ credit freeze centers:
According to the credit reporting agency Experian, an alternative to a freeze is signing up for a fraud alert. A credit reporting agency puts a warning on your credit report alerting potential lenders to verify the identity of anyone attempting to open an account in your name. That way, it can be confirmed that it’s really you applying for credit.
Whether you freeze, opt for a fraud alert or hire a company to watch your financial identity, do something. The cyber world is full of thieves who could care less about your credit rating, your reputation and your financial well-being.