You’ve heard about all of the data breaches lately? They can ruin your finances and your credit record, making it difficult to get loans and mortgages.
Even the credit reporting agencies aren’t immune from data breaches, as we’ve seen with the Equifax breach not long ago. They’ll offer free credit monitoring, which is okay. They also provide an option to place a fraud alert on your credit record, or you can freeze it all together.
Fraud alerts mean the credit agency will keep a closer eye on your credit and requires extra steps to confirm. Freezing means that noone except you and the credit agency can access your credit report.
One good thing that’s come out of all the breaches – the credit agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) have waived all fees in freezing your credit (it used to be $10!).
Another good thing – you can unfreeze your credit temporarily for as few as a couple days if you’re getting a loan, and they need to check your credit. Your credit will automatically freeze again after the time limit you set.
Here’s how to freeze / unfreeze your credit:
https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/credit-freeze/ . You’ll see a screen like this, and you can create an account to manage your credit freeze. You used to need a Personal Identification Number (PIN), but now you just create an account (no more PIN).
https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html . This works similar to Equifax, but here you’ll enter personal information and they’ll give you a PIN. Write that PIN down – Experian still uses PINs and you’ll need it to un-freeze! To unfreeze, you do the same process – enter personal information, but also provide the PIN.
https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze . You’ll go through a similar process as Equifax, where you enter personal information and then create an account. TransUnion doesn’t use PINs anymore, just sign in with your account.
By freezing your credit, you can have a little more peace of mind against unauthorized accounts appearing in your credit record. However, credit monitoring all three bureaus is good, and having identity theft protection monitoring ALL of your personal information is definitely a plus!
Christopher Grounds, Ph.D., CIPA, is a Certified Identity Protection Advisor with the Identity Management Institute, and is the co-owner of Benefits4Success with Joni Grounds, whose mission is to grow and protect individuals and small businesses. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .