With the rise of artificial intelligence and identity theft around the country, I want to talk about the only proactive approach you can take to protect your hard-earned credit file and identity!
What Is a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze (often called a security freeze) prevents potential creditors from accessing your credit report. And if the lender cannot access your credit report, then they won’t issue you credit. That potential thief won’t be able to open a credit card in your name or get that car loan. The lender just won’t lend as they cannot verify that person’s creditworthiness
What Is the Process to Freeze My Credit?
Admittedly, it is not a fun process to go through, nor is it fun to “unfreeze” should you want to get a new car loan or credit card, yet this is the only way to proactively protect your identity. Everything else is reactive in the sense these products (i.e. LifeLock) tell you something has already been done in your name. At that point, it is too late! This is well worth the time commitment to implement and manage.
Before you begin, note a couple items:
- You will need to setup a username and password at each bureau. Do this for you and your spouse. Encourage your loved ones to do the same.
- You DO NOT need to input a credit card. If you somehow find a screen where it is asking for your credit card information, you are in the wrong spot. Just a heads up.
You will need to freeze with each of the three credit bureaus:
- Equifax: https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/credit-freeze/. Click “Place a security freeze”.
- Experian: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html. Click “Create a free account”. Then navigate to the freeze section.
- TransUnion: https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze. Click “Add a freeze”.
Should I Accept a Free Credit Lock?
Whether or not you should accept a free credit lock offer depends on your individual needs and circumstances. A credit lock may be a good option if you're concerned about identity theft or fraud. It provides an extra layer of protection that can help prevent unauthorized access to your credit report.
However, a credit freeze may be a better option if you want to fully protect your credit. While lifting a credit freeze temporarily may be more inconvenient, it provides stronger protection than a credit lock.5
What Else Should You Know?
- Thankfully, each bureau allows for a temporary thaw or lift of your credit freeze. If you want to open a new credit card, get a mortgage, or new auto loan, then you can log into each credit bureau and schedule a temporary lift. This lift can be anywhere from one day to one month or more and allows the lender to access your credit file. Then you don’t have to worry about remembering to refreeze your credit. It just automatically freezes after the end of the thaw period.
- The Indiana Attorney General put out a site outlining the initiative. Click here to learn more: https://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/consumer-protection-division/id-theft-prevention/protect/credit-freeze/.
- Under a federal law effective September 21, 2018, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit record for free. This used to cost money and was another obstacle but is nothing to worry about now.
Again, this is the only way to proactively protect your credit and identity. It will help address a potential problem and many wasted hours, money, and effort.