Accounts you don't recognize on your credit report? You may be a victim of Identity Theft. Will a Security Freeze help? Keep reading to find out more.
A credit freeze or security freeze works like a pin or password. Once frozen, no third party can access your credit report unless you give them a permit.
Now, what is a credit report? A credit report comprises your addresses, details of your financial activity, your social security number, and other confidential details. Creditors or financial institutions may acquire your credit report before issuing you a loan.
However, sometimes thieves and scammers can access your data via your credit report, too. For that reason, it is important to be aware of the credit freezing process.
In this guide, we've explored the concept in complete detail. Let's get started!
Imagine working hard, building a reputation, and suddenly stumbling upon a Facebook page where someone is pretending to be you (and selling the same services as you). Here are the worst possible (and often reported) developments in this scenario:
They have opened up a bank account in your name.
They are receiving payments under your name.
They are acquiring loans under your name.
If you haven't experienced something similar yet, you might wonder: how on earth is that even possible? It is–all that the scammers need is your social security number or a similar piece of information. They can easily get these via your credit report, ATMs, online stalking and manipulation, data breaches, physical spying, etc.
Before you face such identity theft, a blow to your credit score, or a visit from a collections agency, we highly recommend taking the necessary measures.
Read on to figure out how you can protect yourself by freezing your credit report. If your credit score has already been damaged as a result of identity theft, you can learn how to rebuild credit fast here.
You can freeze your credit in only two steps. Here's what you need to do:
Use these contact details to either send a mail or make a phone call to the credit bureaus listed below:
Address: Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348
Contact Number: 888-298-0045
Address: Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
Contact Number: 888-397-3742
Address: TransUnion, P.O. Box 160, Woodlyn, PA 19094
Contact Number: 888-909-8872
Note that these are the only three national credit bureaus in the U.S., and you need to file a request for a credit freeze at each one of them. The process doesn't cost a penny, and it's usually quick. You can also learn about the difference between Equifax and TransUnion here.
Equifax and Experian will allow you to create an account and attach a password to your credit freeze. We recommend picking a very unique password for this. Do not use passwords that you use for other online accounts or something too obvious, like your pet's name or your date of birth.
TransUnion will allow you to set up a six-digit PIN. Like your password, make sure you choose a super unique combination of numbers. If it helps, be sure to jot down this information on a piece of paper and keep it in the safest place possible.
Remember, you should not carry this piece of paper in your backpack, purse, or wallet. You should also not save the details on your phone's notepad, or send it to your mother on WhatsApp, as all of these places are accessible to thieves and scammers. So, keep a physical copy of it, buried deep in your study room or your closet.
If you're shopping for a loan or need a third party to access your financial data, you would need to unfreeze your credit. To do so, simply log in to your online accounts and lift the freeze.
In case you have lost your PIN or password, you can mail the credit bureaus to assist you with the freeze lift process. You may need to provide documents as evidence of your identity and current address. For example, you may need to share a copy of your social security card (for identity) and a copy of your cell phone bill (for your address).
It will take about one hour for all three credit bureaus to lift your freeze. However, if you wish to permanently remove it, you may have to wait for three business days or so.
The primary benefit of a credit freeze is mental peace. Once you have it in place, no third-party (not even a bank) can access your files or credit checks. You'll stay protected from any identity theft; plus, it does not impact your credit score!
There's one major con of freezing your credit that you must know before you trust it completely. At times, thieves can steal data from your current or existing accounts, without needing access to your credit. This is more of a limitation than a con, but it’s something to keep in your mind.
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