How to Protect Your Credit with a Security Freeze
With more and more identity theft stories continuing to break in the news media, many clients are asking how they can best protect their personal information. In addition to strong, constantly changing passwords, metal credit card shielding cases, attention to the security of computers used for on-line purchases, etc., yet another proactive step to consider is placing a security credit freeze on your credit reports at the three major credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Placing a security freeze on your accounts at these three companies will prevent any person, or organization, including lenders, from accessing your credit information and will thus prevent loans, credit and services from being approved in your name. It is important to understand that your credit report will now be inaccessible. If you are planning on refinancing your mortgage, opening a home-equity-line-of-credit, signing up for a new credit card, etc. this probably isn’t a credit protection strategy that you should employ. However, if you don’t anticipate applying for credit in the near future, and do want to place a security freeze on your accounts, the steps to take are outlined below.
You will need to freeze your information at each of the three credit bureaus. All three firms charge a fee for this service – $10 if you live in Virginia and Maryland and $5 in the District of Columbia. There should be no fee to reverse this process if needed. All three firms ask for your personal information including social security number, address, birthdate, etc. Confirmation notifications and PINs are then sent by mail to verify the freeze request and provide a PIN number for future use.
I went through the process myself to see how difficult, or easy it was to actually get this done. The entire security freeze process, at all three credit reporting firms, was accomplished in under 30 minutes. At Experian it was very simple and easy to set up a security freeze through their automated phone system. At Equifax, speaking with a live agent is required to do this by phone, or their on-line service also works well. TransUnion was the most difficult of the three companies with a glitchy on-line system, inability to either accomplish the freeze through an automated system or to get out of a phone-loop to speak to a person, etc. The on-line system eventually worked to get this done. If you decide to put a security freeze on your accounts, contact information for the three credit bureaus is as follows:
|Equifax Security Freeze
PO Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
|Experian Security Freeze
PO Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
PO Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
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This report has been prepared by West Financial Services, Inc. from original sources and data we believe to be reliable. This report is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment, legal or tax advice. Analysis of past market conditions may not predict future market activity.