[titled_box title="Identity Theft Prevention Guide"]
This post is part of the Identity Theft Prevention Guide, a series of articles and resources designed to help you avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
Should I put a security freeze on my credit report?
One of the strongest tools a consumer can use to protect themselves against identity thieves is a security freeze. This will protect you from new fraudulent accounts being opened in your name.
If you place a freeze on your account, no unauthorized parties will be able to access your credit report. You will not be able to easily open new credit files or get new loans (or utility services, cell phone plans, etc.), and neither will potential thieves.
Depending on where you live, a security freeze may not be free, unless you are a recent victim of identity theft and have a police report.
Should you take this step? If you’ve recently suffered from Identity Theft, then the answer is yes, absolutely. If you haven’t been a victim but want to prevent ID theft, then you still may want to do so, but be aware that you’ll have to “un-freeze” your credit file if you plan to apply for a loan, new credit, or certain kinds of services. You may also have problems with applications for employment or insurance coverage that depend on a credit check. You can set up a PIN with each credit bureau to temporarily lift the freeze in these situations.
Be aware that temporarily lifting a security freeze carries a fee, so if you plan to do a lot of applying for work, credit, loans, etc., then you might want to wait before placing a security freeze on your file.
How to place a security freeze on your credit report
A quick and easy way to get started is to visit the credit bureaus’ web sites. They’ll provide more information about security freezes to help you decide whether you want to proceed. If you decide to go ahead with the freeze, you can complete the process at each bureau’s web site.
Be aware that the security freeze is different from a “Fraud Alert.” A fraud alert allows creditors to access your credit report, but alerts them to be on the lookout for fraud, so they should ask for more info before approving any applications.
Fraud alerts are free, and initially last for 90 days, but can be extended to 7 years. You should definitely take advantage of a fraud alert if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, if your wallet/purse has been stolen, or if you have other cause to believe someone may have accessed your identifying information. A fraud alert is a less radical step than a security freeze, allowing you to obtain new credit more easily, but lacking the level of protection afforded by a security freeze.
[titled_box title="Identity Theft Prevention Guide Contents"]
Part 8: Make Your Computer Passwords Stronger
For more information, download our free eBook, “ID Theft: Protecting and Restoring Your Good Name,” or check out our online course on Identity Theft Prevention, available here in our FIT Academy. For more information about National Protect Your Identity Week (NPYIW) or to find a local PYIW event near you, visit ProtectYourIDNow.org.