A while back, my friend refinanced her house and then she froze her credit. We had been discussing identity theft when she told me about this. I’d never heard of this concept before. Times have changed I guess, because now phrases like “data breach” and “identity theft” seem to be a part of daily vernacular. Recently, one of the top three credit bureaus, Equifax, was hacked and now we are left to wonder whether our personal data is out there being sold on the “dark web.” (That’s another fun new term – look it up!)
The silver lining is that it is easy to freeze your credit and protect yourself from strangers opening credit cards and securing loans in your name. It took me all of 30 minutes to freeze my credit across all three agencies (you must do all three), Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Get a free credit report
You can get a free credit report once per 12 months. It’s a good idea to do this so that you know everything is okay and resolve any potential errors.
Pros and Cons of Freezing your credit
If you are planning to finance a new car soon, or buy/refinance a home, or even purchase a new cell phone on a payment plan, then you might want to hold off until those purchases are complete. For a complete list of transactions potentially needing a credit check, read this article.
To complete the freeze process, you will need to visit each bureau’s website. You will need to fill out a short form and answer a couple of security questions. It’s very easy!
Does it cost money? Yes
Equifax is currently waiving the fee. Experian charged me $11.01 and TransUnion charged $10.00. My understanding is that these costs vary by state.
How do I “unfreeze/thaw” my credit?
To “thaw” your credit, you will need a PIN. Equifax assigned me a PIN. Transunion allows the customer to choose their own PIN, and Experian gives a choice whether you create your own PIN or have them generate one for you.
You can call the credit bureau to thaw your credit or do it online, using your personal PIN. To take effect, this process may take minutes or up to three days. Plan ahead! TransUnion also allows you to do a “Temporary Lift,” essentially allowing you to unfreeze your credit for a defined period of time.
Does the process of freezing your credit take a long time?
No. I completed the process of freezing my credit on all three credit bureau sites in less than 30 minutes. This included reading a couple of articles.
Can you freeze your child’s credit?
The answer is not so straight forward. Technically, until your child opens a credit card or gets a loan, they shouldn’t have a credit report, because they don’t have credit. But in the rare cases where a child’s identity has been stolen, and their information used to open a credit card, the child could have a credit report. You can contact each credit bureau and follow their instructions on how to request a minor’s credit report.
What else can I do to protect myself from identity theft?
There are many actions we can take to reduce the likelihood our identity will be stolen. Read this thorough article from the Federal Trade Commission.
Simplify Experts can help!
When working with clients to organize offices, we gladly provide secure shredding services. We are trained to identify which types of documents are safe to recycle and which need to be shredded. We also help clients safely dispose of old electronics. We can take your old cell phone, laptop, tablet, or desktop computer and have them safely wiped and then recycled.