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You know that protecting your credit score should be a priority, so you pay your bills on time, keep your credit balances reasonable and monitor your credit report activity. The credit agencies have responded by giving you a high credit rating high credit rating for doing everything right. You should be safe, right?
Sadly, these precautions are not always enough. Identity theft can happen to anyone. In 2019, victims reported over 650,000 of these cases. You or someone you know has probably already suffered from this crime. When identity thieves get your information, they can open credit lines in your name, racking up enormous debt and wrecking your credit score. You can eventually correct much of the damage, but it can haunt you for years.
If you suspect that this fraud is happening to you, understand that you are not helpless. One way you can fight back is to freeze your credit score. Taking this simple action can cut off these fraudsters before they really start and save you from the worst effects.
A credit freezeA credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, makes it difficult for anyone to access your credit score. Whenever anyone tries to get lines of credit, the creditor checks their credit score before they approve the application. You cannot open new credit card accounts or take out mortgages or car loans with these checks.
When you freeze your credit report, these creditors cannot get the information that they need, so they must reject the application. So when scammers try to use your financial identity to enrich themselves, it shuts them down. This method is more effective than trying to monitor new account applications, which can be approved before you can take action.
The freeze is temporary, lasting only until you ask for it to be released. Consumers are in charge of the process. You may suffer mild inconveniences from a credit freeze, but it prevents bigger problems.
A credit freeze simply protects you from fraud without causing long-term effects. Having one put on your credit report will not adversely affect your credit score because the credit bureaus consider it a responsible move. While your credit report is frozenyour credit report is frozen, you will still receive your free annual credit report. You will also be able to apply for jobs, buy insurance, and rent apartments since the freeze doesn’t apply in these situations.
You can even open a new credit account during this period, but you will have to lift the freeze temporarily to do so. Once your application has been processed, you can reinstate the freeze immediately, if you wish.
A credit freeze does not protect your existing accounts, so you will need to monitor them closely for unapproved transactions. You cannot afford to let down your guard on your credit card and bank transactions because current creditors can still check your score during a credit freeze. Some law enforcement and government agencies will also have access to that information. A credit freeze is an excellent first step in the battle against fraud but not the only one.
You cannot contact all the agencies at once. Instead, you should contact each of the credit bureaus, Equifax, Transunion and Experian, separately. You will need to make the request in writing and include the following:
You will need to visit each site for their fees and other information on freezing your credit. In most states, you will not have to pay for this service if you have been the victim of identity theft.
You should freeze your credit if you think thieves have already breached your personal information. For instance, if you notice inquiries on your credit report that you do not recognize, then freezing your credit while you investigate is a good idea.
Also, if you receive notice that someone has hacked your data through a company such as eBay or Adobe, freeze your credit just to play it safe while the issue is being resolved.
Remember that you will still have to close any accounts opened by identity thieves before the freeze and report the identity theft to the FTC site identitytheft.gov. Again, freezing your credit will not help if someone illegally accesses your current accounts. Pursue other measures in that instance.
Freezing your credit is one effective tool for fighting identity theft. While it won’t solve all your credit fraud problems, it limits the damage that identity thieves can cause. When it comes to your credit score, it pays to take precautions.