Experts say someone’s identity is being stolen “every 2 seconds” so by the time you get done reading this all of our identities will probably be stolen!
While all of this is irritating and can be scary I’m not worried. Why? Because I placed a credit freeze on my credit files years ago and I keep them frozen.
Implementing a credit freeze is one of the cheapest ways to protect yourself against the costly and time-consuming ordeal of having your identity and credit stolen.
What is a credit freeze?
A credit freeze is where you request that a credit reporting company not release your credit report to anyone without your consent. When someone has your information and attempts to apply for a credit card or loan the process is stopped because your credit is “frozen”. You’ll receive a letter from the credit agency telling you that a bank or loan company was trying to gain access to your credit report.
When you place a security freeze on your file, you will be provided with a personal identification number (PIN) or password to use to remove the freeze from your file or to authorize the temporary release of your credit report for a specific person or period after the security freeze is in place. When you want to apply for a credit card or loan you’ll have to “unfreeze” on your credit file. Once you’re done applying for new credit you will “refreeze” your file.
In Illinois the fee to freeze and unfreeze your credit is $10 for each occurrence with each agency.
This freeze does not affect your ability to use your existing credit cards or to pay your mortgage. It simply prevents anyone with your personal information from taking out credit cards or loans without your knowledge.
How do I request a security freeze?
You have to go to the three credit agencies Experian, Transunion and Equifax and follow their online procedures to implement a freeze with each. When you complete the process each agency will give you a PIN or password that you should print and keep in a secure place.
When not to request a freeze
If you’re going to be applying for a mortgage or credit cards soon or on a regular basis then a credit freeze may not be appropriate because “opening” and “closing” your credit could become prohibitively expensive.
Other ways to secure your credit:
- If you choose not to freeze your credit, run a free credit report from one different credit reporting agency every four months rotating through each agency annually.
- Don’t use your credit cards, debit cards or ATM cards where skimmers are prevalent. Skimmers are fraud devices attached to ATM’s and gas station pumps that steal your information. I only use ATM’s inside the bank and I never use a credit card at a gas pump. I buy gas gift cards from office supply stores and grocery stores.
- Check your credit card bills more than once a month. This is extra work but you can discover fraudulent activity as soon as possible.
- Set up alerts that will notify you when there’s any activity on your credit cards. This is also a pain. Every time I cahrge something I get a text but then I know what’s going on. I also get my balances texted to me daily to make sure something didn’t slip by.
- Delete your credit card information from online accounts after you make a purchase.
- Shred all your paper bills with a cross cut shredder.
- If you manage all your accounts online change your passwords periodically and don’t use the same password for every account.
- Here are some other suggestions the Federal Trade Commission has to secure your credit.