As of September 21, 2018, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit with Experian, Transunion and Equifax for free. A credit freeze, prohibits lenders from accessing your credit report, making it more difficult for anyone to steal your identity or access your financial assets without your permission. Previously, only residents of certain states had access to such freezes free of charge. Here’s why you should take advantage of this freebie.
Identity theft was the second most highly reported scam in 2017, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Many people who fell victim to identity theft were also victims of credit card scams. Freezing your credit allows you to protect yourself against fraud. This is especially helpful during deployment.
Because a credit freeze prevents credit lenders from accessing your credit report, even if someone gets access to your confidential information, like your Social Security number, they will not be able to open an account or new line of credit in your name. When they contact a credit card provider, loan or mortgage lender to open an account using your information, the lender will not be able to move forward with the scammer’s request because your credit report is “frozen” or restricted. Consider a credit freeze a new line of security that only you can unlock. >> Learn more about protecting yourself against fraud.
When you place a freeze on your credit report, you’ll receive a personal identification number or PIN, that you can use to lift your credit freeze at any time by phone or online.
To freeze your credit report, you’ll need to contact each of the three major credit reporting bureaus separately. You’ll need to provide personal information, like your address, date of birth and Social Security number to confirm that it’s really you. The identity verification process will be similar to when you call your bank or credit union to access your account information. >> Learn more about credit freezes from the Consumer Federation of America.
Once you successfully verify your identity, you can request a credit freeze. The credit reporting bureau is obligated to honor your request within one business day. If you opt to process your request by paper mail instead of online or by phone, the process will take longer.
The credit reporting agency will notify you that your credit has been locked within five days of receiving your request.
Be sure to keep your PIN in a safe place so you can easily access it when you need to lift your credit freeze. If you can memorize it, that’s always your best bet. If you have a safe where you store personal information during Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves and transitions, be sure to stow your PIN away in your safe. In the event that you lose your PIN, you can request a new one by verifying your identity once again and requesting a new PIN. You can request a new PIN online or by phone.
Submit your request to unfreeze your credit at least one hour before you apply for a new line of credit, this is to allow enough time for the process to complete before the lender attempts to pull your credit.
If you’re the parent or guardian of a person under the age of 16, you can request a credit freeze on their behalf. Fraudsters don’t have an age limit on who they attack, so don’t shy away of utilizing this free tool for young people.
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