A credit freeze, usually called a security freeze, gives consumers the option to lock access to their credit files. Most people do this to protect against criminals opening credit accounts using their information. The consumer will put a freeze at all three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. After this, a thief will not be able to open any new accounts because your credit file is frozen and cannot be checked. While this means that you cannot open any new accounts either, you will be able to temporarily lift the freeze when you need to.
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Look up the security freeze fees for your state. Every state charges a different amount for placing a security freeze. If you are a victim of identity theft and can provide proof this fee may be waived. The fee may also be waived if you are over 65.
Make sure you are the account holder. Only the account holder can place a freeze. You will be asked for your full name, Social Security number, date of birth, current address and previous address if you've lived less than two years at the current address. You may be asked for a copy of your ID and a current copy of a utility bill or bank statement that was mailed to your house and shows your name and address.
Request a freeze at the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You can do this through their websites.
Save your confirmation number. You will need this in order to temporarily or permanently lift the freeze.
Plan ahead for future credit transactions. It can take three business days for your request to lift the freeze to go though, and you cannot open any new accounts until the freeze is lifted.
Tips and warnings
- There are some exemptions to the credit freeze. The freeze does not apply to places where the consumer already has an account or to law enforcement agencies and certain government agencies that use credit files for investigations.
- Identity theft is one of the fastest growing financial crimes, according to ConsumersUnion.org, with more than 8 million Americans falling victim to it.
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