Is it time to freeze your credit?
Would you go on vacation and leave your front door open? You may be leaving the door open to your financial home and not even know. By default, the doors to your entire credit profile are open in order to make it easy for you to apply for credit, set up a new cell phone contract, open a bank account, and even change insurance companies. The problem is that if the doors are left open for you, they are also left open for scammers and identity thieves. Once someone has access to your credit report, they have access to your entire financial history. This includes your social security number, birthday, address history, work history, and a record of all financial institutions.
It's time to lock up your financial home by placing a freeze on your credit.
First, you need to know that there are three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. To freeze your credit, you will need to reach out to each of these companies individually since they each have their own process for how to do this. You will be required to verify your identity, and you may be asked to provide identifying documents. After they have verified your identity, you can lock down your credit profile by creating a secure PIN.
A credit freeze puts you in control. It is way more secure than credit monitoring or a fraud alert, both of which will alert you after credit has been issued in your name. With a credit freeze, you can prevent identity theft from happening instead of cleaning up after your identity theft nightmare.
Now keep in mind that once you lock the door to your credit report, you will need to unlock it before you let others in. That means you will need to unfreeze your report before doing anything credit related and reimplement the freeze once you have completed your transaction.
If you are a parent of a young child, you should also take steps to protect their credit.
Experts say that 500,000 children suffer from identity theft every year. Why? Their clean records are attractive to thieves looking to open new accounts without any issues, and the theft can go unnoticed for years as parents and guardians often don’t think to check their children’s records. But childhood identity theft can lead to a lifetime of fraud and ruined credit. The first step in protecting your children is ensuring they have NO credit report by contacting all three of the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).
Parents should send a letter including copies of their child's birth certificate listing them as the parent, their driver's license, and proof of address to all three credit reporting agencies and ask for a manual search of their child's Social Security number.
If no report is found, you’re in luck. You should still periodically check on your child’s status, however. If a report is found, it’s usually a sign that your child has been victimized. Ask the credit bureaus to immediately place a credit freeze on your child’s record and investigate further.
You can now request a credit freeze for your child in every state. Previously, it depended on your state of residence, but now it is a federal law. You will again have to contact all three of the bureaus individually.