Do I Need to Freeze My Credit and How Do I Do It?

how to freeze your credit

Freezing your credit score is not something new, but it is now free to freeze your credit after the Equifax data breach and rising incidents of identity theft.

There are more reasons to freeze your credit than the Equifax data breach though. This article will cover those reasons and explain exactly how to freeze your credit.

What Does Freezing My Credit Do?

Freezing your credit is something that most people did not even know was possible, but with good reason. While freezing your credit makes it difficult for potential thieves to steal your identity, it also means that all requests for your credit score will require a personal identification number (PIN) that only you know.

More than just banks and other lenders run your credit. Landlords, insurance companies, car rental business, and government background check investigators can all request access to your credit score.

freezing your credit

A frozen credit report means that they will not be able to access it without your permission, which means your loan request or credit card application will get denied if you do not enter the PIN. It works great for stopping identity thieves and unwanted credit checks, but it can quickly become a nuisance if you have to frequently run your credit.

When You Need to Freeze Your Credit

A credit freeze is done to protect against identity theft and unwanted credit checks. Both of which can absolutely destroy your credit. Additionally, identity theft will just make your life difficult and probably cost thousands of dollars to fix.

Here are some examples of when you should freeze your credit.

Your Identity Was Compromised in the Equifax Breach

Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, experienced a data breach that allowed hackers to steal identity documents on approximately 140 million Americans. Information stolen in the data breach includes full names, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, date of births, and other information required to receive a line of credit.

You can easily research on the Federal Trade Commission website to see if your information was stolen. If it was, then freezing your credit is a wise option.

Any Online Account Was Hacked

Online accounts have plenty of personally identifiable information that can be used by hackers to open new accounts. More concerning is that many people use the same login across multiple platforms. For instance, their Facebook login might be the same as their Bank of America login.

Furthermore, malicious software could be on your computer if your account was hacked, which means that all your personally identifiable information and online accounts can be stolen.

You should immediately freeze your credit if one of your online accounts is hacked. The next step is to find out how hackers compromised your account and solve that problem.

Identity Documents Were Lost or Stolen

Most people do not lose or have physical copies of their identity documents stolen. Usually, this information is stolen in the digital world. However, if you lose your wallet, then you should certainly freeze your credit. Other scenarios include your house being burglarized or replacement documents that were shipped to the wrong address.

You Have Checked Into the Hospital

Checking into the hospital is one of the riskier things you can do regarding identity theft. Remember, you have to give your social security number, driver’s license, and address when you check into the hospital.

This information is seen by multiple people throughout your visit, and most of them are not doctors. Any one of these hospital workers could quickly take a picture of your information and use it to steal your identity.

Unfortunately, if you go to the hospital, then you cannot avoid this. This means you may want to freeze your credit after going to the hospital.

You Want to be More Secure

Sometimes there is not an imminent identity theft threat, but you can still freeze your credit. Some people do this to prevent unauthorized credit checks, which can lower your score.

It also preemptively stops any identity thefts. For instance, if you were in an unknown data breach, then you are at risk. This is why you may consider getting a preemptive credit freeze, but only if you understand how they work.

How to Freeze Your Credit

Freezing your credit is actually easy. In fact, it can be done online and only takes a few minutes.

One important point to note about freezing your credit is that you must do so with all three of the major bureaus.

credit freeze for identity theft

For instance, if you only freeze your credit from Experian, then the other two bureaus can still fulfill the request.

Here are the links, and phone numbers, to freeze your credit with each bureau:

The process for each bureau is mandated by federal law, and all the steps are the same. You must verify your identity, confirm you understand what a credit freeze is, and then authorize the credit freeze.

Final Thoughts

All in all, freezing your credit is not as scary as it sounds nor is it as difficult. The recent data breach of Equifax has made most people realize that taking proper preemptive measures to prevent identity theft is important.

The problem with identity theft and security is that you often have no say in the security of your data. In fact, companies you may not know exist, such as Equifax could expose your identity to millions of identity thieves across the world.

That said, a credit freeze offers the best way to protect against the most common form of identity theft.

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Posted in Identity Theft
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