Credit Freeze, Fraud and You
What is a credit freeze and what makes it different from credit fraud alert? The credit freeze was first introduced in
California in 2003. Today, however, a credit freeze can be done in all 38 States and can be requested from any of the three major credit bureaus- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Before you freeze your credit however, it’s a good idea to get a copy of your report from a trusted credit report website that provides a free report or one at a minimum charge.
Once a consumer puts a freeze on his credit , no lender, insurer, employer or anyone else can make an inquiry or request on his credit report. The fact is, not even you, can look into your credit report unless you order the credit bureau to “unfreeze” or “thaw” your credit.
Unlike a credit fraud alert which only lasts for up to 90 days, a credit freeze will last for as long as the owner of the report doesn’t request that his report be thawed. Therefore, if you want to apply for a new credit card or you plan to get a loan, you need to notify the credit bureau in advance to get the freeze be lifted.
The unfreezing of the credit report can take from within minutes or up to a week, depending on the State or the credit bureau issuing the report. You have the option to choose whether you want to unfreeze your credit report permanently or for just a limited time period. Also, within this period, you can limit the list of people who can look in your report.
Why Freeze your Credit
Putting your credit report on a freeze definitely gives you more protection from identity theft or fraud. Going through the procedures of freezing and unfreezing and paying a certain amount, usually about $10 each time is definitely worth spending your money on rather than risk being victimized by ID theft or fraud.
How do you ask for a credit freeze?
A fraud alert can be done by phone but if you want to freeze your report, you need to send a letter of request to the credit bureau via registered mail. Generally, at least two proofs of residency such as a billing statement or a copy of your driver’s license is required. The cost for a credit freeze ranges from $10 to $12. Unfreezing or thawing will also cost you about $10 to $12 for each bureau.
More Credit Precautions
But aside from putting your credit report on a freeze, what other steps can you do on your own? Here are valuable tips you should not overlook:
- Shred all receipts, past billing statements,and old documents that contain your bank information or any of your personal details on it. If you don’t have shredder, tear the document into tiny bits and throw the pieces in separate trash bins.
- Don’t write your bank information, credit card numbers, PIN codes or passwords on just any sheet of paper. Keep all these important details in one log book and keep it in a secured place or a locked storage.
- If you want to use your credit card for shopping online, ask your credit card company for a different credit card number that you can use exclusively for online transactions.
- Access your online account regularly. Most credit cards today provide an online account service where you can check the status of your account over the internet at any time. Thus, you don’t have to go out of your way to visit your local bank to update yourself. It takes only five minutes at most to access your account from your computer.
- Sign up for your credit card’s fraud protection service. Some credit cards provide this feature automatically but if your credit card doesn’t, it’s a good idea to sign up. This service will give a quicker response from your credit card issuer in case your wallet or your credit card gets stolen.
If you need to get in touch with an agent from any of three credit bureaus- Experian, Equifax or Trans Union- by phone, visit gethuman.com to access the latest contact numbers where you can speak with a human representative from the credit bureaus and not just a recorded message.