Freezing your credit is a great way to help protect your identity. It's easy, free in most States and can be lifted when YOU want it to be.
We recently learned of this great tip from Lisha Shinolt, CEO of BlessingBox.com LLC and wanted to share the information with you.
When Lisha told us about this, we had questions. We weren't buying a house, needing a new credit card or applying for a business loan at the moment, but what if we needed to? How would freezing our credit reports affect that and our credit (FICO) score?
What is a Credit Freeze?
According to the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Information FAQ website:
"A Credit Freeze, also known as a security freeze, is a tool that lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. That’s because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. If they can’t see your file, they may not extend the credit."
Credit Freeze FAQs
Do you have more questions about freezing your credit? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website has answers to questions in regards to freezing your credit and we highly recommend checking it out. But we'll be using that site to answer the specific questions below:
How Do you Freeze Your Credit?
First, keep in mind that you have to freeze your credit at all 3 credit bureaus in the U.S. Below are the links to each of these sites which is where you will need to go to complete the freeze process. Also, remember to do this for each person in your household who has a Social Security number. Infants born in the U.S. are required to have social security numbers now. Many parents are finding out the hard way that when their child is old enough to apply for a car or school loan, their credit has already been damaged by identity thieves using their child's social security number.
Click here to freeze your credit report on line at Equifax.
You can call them to request a freeze at: 1-800-349-9960
Click here to freeze your credit report online at Experian.
You can call them to request a freeze at: 1‑888‑397‑3742
Click here to freeze your credit report at TransUnion. TransUnion does require you to sign up for an online account (free) to do this. You can call them to request a freeze at: 1-888-909-8872
Does a credit freeze stop pre-screened credit offers?
According to the FTC FAQ website, the answer is no. Here is what they say about this topic:
"No. If you want to stop getting prescreened offers of credit, call 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or go online. The phone number and website are operated by the nationwide credit reporting companies. You can opt out for five years or permanently. However, some companies send offers that are not based on prescreening, and your federal opt-out right will not stop those kinds of solicitations.
As you consider opting out, you should know that prescreened offers can provide many benefits, especially if you are in the market for a credit card or insurance. Prescreened offers can help you learn about what's available, compare costs, and find the best product for your needs. Because you are pre-selected to receive the offer, you can be turned down only under limited circumstances. The terms of prescreened offers also may be more favorable than those that are available to the general public. In fact, some credit card or insurance products may be available only through prescreened offers."
Does a credit freeze affect my credit score?
"No. A credit freeze does not affect your credit score. A credit freeze also does not:
- prevent you from getting your free annual credit report
- keep you from opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance. But if you’re doing any of these, you’ll need to lift the freeze temporarily, either for a specific time or for a specific party, say, a potential landlord or employer. The cost and lead times to lift a freeze vary, so it’s best to check with the credit reporting company in advance.
- prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. You still need to monitor all bank, credit card and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions."
How do you lift the freeze on your credit?
Again, we'll use the information posted directly from the FTC FAQ website.
"A freeze remains in place until you ask the credit reporting company to temporarily lift it or remove it altogether. A credit reporting company must lift a freeze no later than three business days after getting your request. The cost to lift a freeze varies by state.
"If you opt for a temporary lift because you are applying for credit or a job, and you can find out which credit reporting company the business will contact for your file, you can save some money by lifting the freeze only at that particular company."
Each credit bureau will need to be contacted to temporarily lift the freeze. Lifting a freeze on your credit report is going to require a special pin number that each credit bureau will give you when you freeze your credit. It's extremely important that you keep that pin in a safe place so that when the time comes to put a temporary lift on your credit, you'll be able to do so quickly and securely using that pin.
This is another time when being a SafelyFiled member can really benefit you. When you receive the documents with the pin from each credit Bureau, you can put them
into your SafelyFiled vault. Then, no matter where you might be when you need to request a temporary lift, you'll be able to access that information. In addition, you can grant shared permission to it in the event someone else may need to request a lift for you (spouse for example). Even more importantly, you'll be able to find it quickly when you need it. This may be even more important for you if you're like us and don't use credit often. You can also set a reminder on those documents so you can remind yourself and anyone who has shared access on those files, that you have a freeze in place.
In the event of death or incapacitation of self or spouse, it would be a great help to the executor of the estate to know that there is a credit freeze in place so they'll know it's not something they have to worry about doing while the estate is being settled. Of course, as soon as there is a death certificate available for the owner of the credit report, the executor needs to remember to send a copy to each credit bureau so that the accounts can be permanently frozen. In an age of identity theft rising after the death of a person, this is even more of a critical step.
Please feel free to share this information with your friends and extended family members so that everyone can be proactive in protecting their identity and credit scores.