While the holiday season can be a great time to spend with friends and family, it’s also the time of year when identity theft is at it’s highest.
With increased spending and credit card swipes, your credit information has a higher chance of being compromised during this busy shopping season.
However, If you do find yourself on the receiving end of suspicious activity or a victim of identity theft, your first line of defense is requesting a credit freeze.
Here’s how to freeze your credit within your compromised account and protect your credit history.
What is a credit freeze?
A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, can be placed on your credit report if your account has been compromised.
For example, if you’re a victim of identity theft or other fraudulent activity you can request to freeze your account. This will prevent you from being susceptible to further damage.
Essentially, when you freeze credit it means your credit and accounts are all frozen from any new activity.
It’s important to note that a credit freeze is only applicable for new credit accounts and transactions. Therefore, it will not protect you against suspicious activity that has already happened.
However, a credit freeze can keep identity thieves from being able to create new credit accounts in your name. Or, access any other financial information.
Remember, you are the only person who can request that a security freeze is placed on your credit report. Your credit history belongs only to you. No one else can do anything without your explicit permission.
What are the benefits of a credit freeze?
Depending on your situation, there are many reasons you may want to place a credit freeze on your account. Here are some of the main benefits.
- No new accounts can be opened in your name
- A credit freeze won’t affect your credit score
- Greater control over your credit and personal information
- A credit freeze can be lifted at any time
What does a credit freeze cost?
Your credit freeze will last until you remove it. Or, have it temporarily lifted.
Each state requires a different fee for placing a credit freeze on your account. Therefore, fees can range between $3-$10 per person per credit agency.
If you are a verified victim of identity theft or a minor, you can place a credit freeze for free.
And, you can always request a copy of your credit report for free before starting the security freeze process.
How do you request a credit freeze?
If you find that your credit report displays suspicious activity, or you’ve received fraudulent transactions on any of your accounts, here are the steps to take to request a credit freeze.
1. Gather the necessary information
In order to properly protect your credit history, you must file a security freeze with all three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Each of these credit bureaus has a slightly different process for requesting a credit freeze. However, all require the same information to get started.
Before filing a credit freeze, here’s the necessary information you will need to collect.
- Your full name, including middle initial and suffix
- Social Security number
- Date of birth
- Current physical address
- Addresses you’ve lived at during the past two years
- Correct email address
- A government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license
- A copy of a utility bill, insurance or bank statement
2. Contact all three credit bureaus
The quickest ways to request a security freeze with each credit agency is to fill out your information via their secure online forms. You can also go through the process over the phone using a specific telephone number.
Here is the contact information for all three credit bureaus.
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742, or start their online questionnaire.
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285, or via their secure website.
- TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872, or create an online account
In order to start the security freeze process with each credit bureau, you’ll need to answer questions related to your personal and financial information. So keep those documents handy.
3. Keep good records
Filing a credit freeze can be a bit of hassle. It usually takes some time to process the freeze onto your account. And, you will have to put in a request to have it lifted at a later date.
That’s why it’s so important to keep good records throughout the process. Take notes and make copies of all the conversations and paperwork you file with each credit bureau.
You will ultimately need all of this information on-hand in the future. Especially if you file a police report against the identity thief.
4. Sign up for credit alerts
Monitor your credit report closely to ensure no other suspicious activity occurs.
Consider signing up for free credit alerts via email or text message so you’ll be immediately informed of any unauthorized transactions that may try to post.
What happens after you freeze credit?
It’s important to remember that a credit freeze only works on new activity. It will not be able to fix past fraudulent transactions.
In addition to the three main credit agencies, it’s also a good idea to reach out to each financial institution that you do business with. Alert them to the fact that your identity has been stolen and discuss what steps you may need to take.
You’ll also have to work with each of your lenders to get the suspicious charges reversed. Or, to close new accounts that were opened in your name.
Ultimately, putting a security freeze on your credit report can provide you with the peace of mind you need to protect your financial security.
At the end of the day, a credit freeze is a strong line of defense you can muster quickly to remedy suspicious credit activity and overcome identity theft. Without letting it ruin your holidays.
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