Identity theft has been a growing concern for consumers over the past decade, as more activities become Internet-based. Shopping, banking and applying for credit can all be done online, making it a challenge to fully protect yourself from the malicious intent of identity thieves. However, there are tools in place meant to protect you from having your information used for the benefit of someone else, including a credit freeze.
The process of freezing your credit provides a barrier between your personal credit file and an identity thief. By placing a credit freeze on each of your credit reports held with the three major credit bureaus TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, new applications for credit cannot be approved because creditors are unable to view your credit file and history. A credit freeze is powerful because even when a criminal gathers your personal information, he or she has no way to use it to open a new account. A credit freeze does not have an impact on your current credit accounts, and it can be thawed or lifted when necessary.
The process of enacting a credit freeze on your credit file involves the creation of a unique personal identification number (PIN) with each of the three major credit bureaus. This PIN can be used to temporarily or permanently thaw or lift a credit freeze when a new, legitimate application for credit is submitted. Because credit decisions cannot be made without a full review of your credit file and history, you may want to lift a credit freeze when you are applying for a new credit card, personal loan, mortgage or line of credit. Once the application is approved, you can reinstate the credit freeze if you deem it necessary.
While a credit freeze is an important tool in protecting your identity and financial life, it should be used with care. Each bureau assesses a fee for implementing a freeze if you are not a victim of identity theft. It also costs to lift a credit freeze, whether permanent or temporary. Current victims of identity theft, however, are able to freeze a credit file and lift it as necessary at no cost. Prior to implementing a freeze or lift, you should weight the total cost of doing so against the benefits this tool provides.
Each of the three major credit bureaus have similar procedures for lifting a credit freeze. Here are the instructions for Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
You can lift a credit freeze from your credit file with Equifax by one of the following:
You can mention specific creditors you would like to have access to your credit file, or permanently remove the freeze if necessary. Costs to lift a credit freeze with Equifax vary by state.
You can lift a credit freeze from your credit file with Experian using one of the following ways:
You can provide the specific creditors you would like to have access to your credit file, or permanently remove the freeze if necessary. Costs to lift a credit freeze with Experian vary by state.
You can lift a credit freeze from your credit file with TransUnion using any of the following methods:
You can provide information on the specific creditors you would like to have access to your credit file, or permanently remove the freeze if necessary. Costs to lift a credit freeze with TransUnion vary by state.
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