Thanks to changes to the Dodd-Frank Act, freezing and lifting credit freezes are now free. In 2017, there were 16.7 million identity fraud victims who reported losing $16.8 billion, and approximately 158 million Social Security numbers were exposed according to a report from the Identity Theft Resource Center. Consequently, consumer fear of becoming an identity theft victim has risen 12% over the last three years, and over half of consumers believe that becoming a victim will have a significant impact on their life. This is why you should consider freezing your credit to protect your personal informational from being misused by identity thieves and provide you extra piece of mind.
What is a Credit Freeze
A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, prohibits credit bureaus from disclosing personal information, including your credit report. It can be an effective way to prevent anyone from opening an account or a credit card in your name. A credit freeze does not affect your credit score or prevent you from getting your free annual credit report from each bureau. However, it also does not prevent a thief from making charges to an existing account. Therefore, you still need to monitor all financial statements for fraudulent charges.
How to Place a Credit Freeze
To freeze your credit, you need to contact each of the three credit bureaus individually — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Contact information for all three credit bureaus can be found on the Federal Trade Commission’s website. Each bureau has a slightly different process, but generally, you need to provide your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other information to confirm your identity. Each bureau will provide a unique personal identity number (PIN) or password that you should keep in a safe place, as it will be needed if you decide to lift the freeze.
How to Lift a Freeze
If you need to lift a freeze temporarily or remove it altogether, you can submit a request online, over the phone, or via mail. If the request is made online or by phone, the credit bureau has an hour to lift the freeze. If the request is made by mail, the credit bureau has three days after receiving the request. The request to lift the freeze needs to be made with all three credit bureaus individually.
The Difference between a Credit Freeze and a Fraud Alert
A fraud alert is a notice that major credit bureaus place on consumers’ credit reports in order to prevent transactions from occurring without your consent; whereas, a credit freeze prevents creditors from accessing your credit report.
A fraud alert makes lenders aware that if a new account is being opened, they should contact you to confirm that you really are the person requesting to open it. A fraud alert doesn’t require lenders to call you, but it does encourage them to do so for your safety. In addition, a fraud alert stays on your credit report for one year, but you can also get a new one after one year. For victims of identity theft, an extended seven-year fraud alert is available and recommended. Lastly, when a fraud alert is placed, you are entitled to one free credit report from each bureau. For a seven-year alert, two free credit reports are available from each bureau. Unlike freezing credit, you only need to contact one of the three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert with all three bureaus, as bureaus are required to notify each other when one is placed.
Identity Protection as another Layer of Security
With the rising prevalence of data breaches, it is in your best interest to keep abreast of the data security changes that could potentially impact your financial wellness. Staying informed about legislative changes and the resources available to you can help to protect your data from identity thieves and hopefully lessen your fears of becoming an identity theft victim. In this age of continued breaches, identity protection is a more important resource than ever for consumers to consider. Our award-winning identity protection resolution team can assist with freezing credit and lifting freezes on your behalf, as well a myriad of other identity theft issues that may arise. Purchase Iris identity protection today to provide yourself with an extra layer of protection for your most valuable asset – your identity.