Why freezing your credit is a good idea
If you’ve ever been the victim of credit card or identity theft, you may have had someone recommend that you freeze your credit—that doesn’t mean putting your credit cards in the freezer!
A credit freeze, also known as a credit lockdown or a security freeze, restricts access to your credit report. Your credit gets checked whenever you do things like open a new credit or bank account, rent an apartment, or buy insurance — basically most times you’re dealing with a creditor. When you freeze your credit, you add an extra level of security to your identity protection, making it impossible for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. Creditors who can’t access your credit report will deny any unauthorized requests to open new lines of credit in your name!
Now, let’s face the facts. Around 15 million people in the United States are the victims of identity theft every single year. If you aren’t in the middle of opening a new credit card or refinancing your mortgage (i.e. your credit score isn’t being checked) then why do you need to expose yourself to the excess risk? Freezing your credit is easy, and “thawing” it is simple too. We’ll walk you through the steps, and show you how Jazmine can help you along the way.
Before you freeze your credit, it’s important to know a few things:
- Freezing your credit will have no impact on your existing lines of credit.
- Freezing your credit will not have any impact on your credit score.
- You can use your existing credit cards after you’ve frozen your credit.
- Residents of many states may also freeze the credit reports of their minor children (figure out the laws in your state here).
- If your job requires your credit to be checked regularly, or if you create new accounts at different financial institutions on a regular basis – especially opening department store credit cards for 10% off – you should probably not freeze your credit.
- You’ll still receive your free annual credit report if your freeze your credit. You can get it here (free annual credit report). Note that the agencies have different scoring formulas and you will not be able to get the score, but, you can see all the transactions that they have applied to your account.
- Remember that a credit freeze does not protect existing accounts from criminals, nor does it stop pre-screened credit offers.
- Your existing creditors and debt collectors will still have access to your credit report after you’ve frozen it. Also, government agencies may be able to access your credit score if they have a court or administrative order, a subpoena, or a search warrant.
Freezing Your Credit
In order to freeze your credit, you need to contact each of the three major credit reporting companies. Click on the following links to find each reporting company’s respective credit freeze page, or call the corresponding toll-free number.
For each company, you will need to provide your name, date of birth, social security number, and personal information like your current and former address. Depending on where you live, fees associated with your credit freeze will range anywhere from $0 to $10 for each credit reporting company.
In states where there are no fees to freeze your credit, there may be fees associated with “thawing” the freeze. Thawing means lifting the freeze for a period of time that you specify.
After you’ve completed your freeze requests, the credit reporting companies will give you a unique password or PIN that you’ll use to thaw or “unfreeze” your credit when you need it down the road. It’s important to keep these PINs or passwords in a safe place. We suggest printing out a copy and storing them in your personal files, as well as keeping them stored on your Jazmine.com account.
Also, freeze your credit at ChexSystems . ChexSystems is a company used by most banks to check your identity when a checking or savings account is opened.
Thawing Your Credit
Follow instructions from each of the the above companies on how to thaw your credit. You can either temporarily lift your freeze, for example, if you’re applying for a new mortgage, and know that the bank will be requesting your credit score in the next few days—or completely remove it. The cost to lift your freeze varies depending on which option you choose, and ranges from free to $10.
Opting out of Offers
You can also opt-out temporarily or permanently from offers for credit cards, loans and other products. To permanently opt-out you need to fill out the form, print it, sign it and mail it in.
(Source: Federal Trade Commission)