Tax Insights

Your Guide to State, Local, Federal, Estate + International Taxation

Free credit freeze, free yourself of fraud

credit freeze, fraud, creditAfter the massive Experian data breach, and others, consumers continue to look for ways to protect their personal information from fraudsters. Getting a security/credit freeze put on your credit file is one line of defense. Having a credit freeze on your credit file stops a criminal from opening a credit card or credit line in your name by using stolen personal information.

A credit freeze at the Credit Bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Transunion) restricts access to your credit file, and without access to your credit file, banks, stores and other financial companies will not approve any new credit applications.

Credit Bureaus will now freeze and unfreeze your credit file for free. Previously, some states allowed them to charge you for a freeze and then they charged again for unfreezing it.

Don’t miss: protecting your money in a digital world

In addition to protecting your credit file with a freeze, consider putting a freeze on the credit files of your minor children and elderly family members. Children and the elderly rarely, if ever, access their credit record and are now prime targets of fraudsters. You can put a freeze on the credit file of your children who are under 16. If you are the guardian, conservator or have a valid power of attorney for another person, you can freeze that person’s account too.

You need to contact all three of the nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to place a freeze on your account. If you request a freeze online or by phone, the agency must place the freeze within one business day. The agency must lift the freeze within one hour of your request to remove it. If you make your request by mail, the agency must place or lift the freeze within three business days after it gets your request. Temporary lifts of a freeze are also free.

Be sure to save all your account information and PINs for each credit agency. Remember, you will need this information to unlock any freeze if you want to apply for a credit card, get a car loan, etc. After putting a freeze on your credit, plan ahead before applying for credit or you may be standing at the retail store counter receiving a rejection for your new credit card application!

Additional information on a credit freeze and how it works is available on the FTC website. Contact information for all three Credit Bureaus is available at identitytheft.gov.

Melinda Nelson, CPA