Experts recommend identity theft victims place a credit freeze on their credit reports. This, theoretically, will prevent more financial fraud from taking place.
A credit freeze — also known as a security freeze — “lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. That’s because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. If they can’t see your file, they may not extend the credit,” according to a FAQ on the Federal Trade Commission website.
We emphasize the word theoretical because the FTC itself warns that while companies “may not” extend credit without access to your file, it’s certainly not a guarantee.
LibertyID’s lead restoration specialist Suzanne Ford has been helping identity theft victims for nearly 35 years. She goes so far as to advocate that even everyday people who haven’t yet been victimized consider keeping a credit freeze in place to prevent identity theft/fraud.
While this might sound a bit over the top, really it’s not. In fact, Ford believes it should be the status quo. Until then “anyone with an established credit report should keep them locked,” Ford said. “It should not be accessible to anyone without your permission.”
How to Initiate a Credit Freeze
So how do you freeze your credit?
You need to call each credit reporting company or go online to the websites to initiate a freeze. There are three major credit reporting companies and a smaller, new bureau called Innovis. For your convenience we’re including the web page with specific information about the freeze, the automated phone numbers as well as the direct line you can call to speak with an associate, which will hopefully save you time (and exposure to canned hold music!):
- Automated number: 888-397-3742; direct to associate: 800-232-8081
- Automated number: 888-909-8872; direct to associate: 800-916-8800
- Automated number: 800-685-1111; direct to associate: 800-203-7843
- Direct to associate: 800-540-2505
Even if you have a freeze placed on your credit, you can still lift it — either temporarily, or all together. There is a cost to do so, which varies by state. You likely don’t have to lift it with all three agencies each time it’s needed. Asking a simple question could save you money. If a possible employer or financer needs to access your credit, fInd out which credit reporting company they plan to contact and then just lift it there so you don’t needlessly pay to lift it at all three agencies.
A few more things you should know:
• According to the FTC site, the fees to place or lift a freeze vary by state and company, but commonly range from $5 to $10.
• A few entities will still have access to your credit report when it’s frozen, including existing creditors or debt collectors acting on their behalf, as well as governmental agencies in response to a court or administrative order, subpoena or search warrant.
• There’s a different process for minors or adults who don’t have an established credit report. It’s also good to note that it’s free to put a credit freeze on a minor’s credit report.
And, as always, if you have LibertyID, you can relax. LibertyID subscribers are assigned a dedicated identity theft recovery specialist who will fix anything that might result from a person who has their identity stolen or compromised.
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