Freezing your credit is the number one way to protect your financial identity from theft. Had I frozen my credit, neither of my cases of identity theft would have happened and I wouldn’t be an identity theft speaker today. A woman wouldn’t have used my name and credit to buy a home in Ohio and my business partner wouldn’t have used my name to commit $300,000 worth of crimes that nearly landed me in jail.
A credit freeze is simply an agreement you make with the three main credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) that they won’t allow new accounts (credit card, banking, brokerage, loans, rental agreements, etc.) to be attached to your name/social security number unless you contact the credit bureau, give them a password and allow them to unfreeze or thaw your account for a short period of time. Yes, freezing your credit takes a bit of time (maybe an hour of work), can be a little inconvenient when you want to set up a new account (that said, let’s face it, businesses want to make it as easy as possible to unfreeze your credit because they benefit when you set up new accounts and spend more money) and it can cost a few dollars (generally about ten dollars to unfreeze, a small price compared to the recovery costs of identity theft). And it is worth it! It’s like putting locks on your doors.
There are two ways to freeze your credit. Most states have passed laws that allow you to freeze your credit. They generally keep the fees and procedures for filing reasonable. Here is a list of states with credit freeze laws.
Since all states don’t allow you, by law, to freeze your credit, the three credit reporting bureaus have begun to offer credit freezes on a national basis. This is a major step forward in the prevention of identity theft, even if they are offering it for profit reasons (they make money every time you freeze/unfreeze your credit). If your state does not currently offer credit freezes by law, you can now apply with each credit reporting bureau individually.
Visit their credit freeze sites here: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion.