My spidey senses are telling me that it’s time to protect my identity. So over the past few days, I have been researching the process of freezing credit reports. In this post, I would like to share with you guys the process of placing a freeze on your credit.
What’s the purpose of a credit freeze?
If you are worried about identity theft then putting a freeze on your credit report can prevent an unauthorized person from opening a credit line in your name.
Imagine circumstances when you might apply for a job, rent an apartment, open a credit card or apply for a mortgage – all these often require an institution or person to have access to your credit report.
By putting a freeze on each of the major credit bureaus, you prevent any access to your private information until you thaw your report and thereby allow access to your information.
What’s the limitation of a freeze?
A thief can still steal your physical information such as your social security number or your credit card. They can file fake tax returns on your behalf or they can sell the information on various online black markets.
However, a new account that requires a credit history cannot be created with a freeze, that’s the most helpful aspect of a credit freeze.
The downside to placing a freeze is that lifting it often costs somewhere in the $10 range every time you place or lift a freeze.
However, most companies won’t check all 3 reports simultaneously, which means you can inquire ahead of time and lift the freeze off the particular credit bureau that they would like to access.
Also, if you are diligently monitoring your credit report then you should have a fresh copy of your credit report which you can hand out to a potential employer or bank. They can and will use your copy to get you started, once you guys get closer to sealing the deal, you can thaw your credit report and complete the transaction.
How Thieves Get Your Info
Devices can be installed on ATM machines which can steal your input information in order to get access to your account.
Hackers can access information which you have stored with a retail or online company. If you have your credit card number stored somewhere online and that company’s website was breached, then the thief could use those accounts to make purchases.
Viruses can be installed on your phone or computer which can leech information. These could be on your device and you would never know it or they could be discovered by malware/virus detecting software after the damage has been done.
We forget about physical theft but losing your wallet is one way that someone could get access to your ID, social security card, and credit cards.
Mail theft is another way that your information or your cards could be stolen. Account numbers are rarely reported on statements, however, your credit cards and ID still require snail mail to get to you.
Snail mail can be hacked by submitting a false change of address, diverting your information to a specific mailbox in order to steal your personal information.
Dumpster diving is used quite a bit by competitive companies which are trying to get a leg up on their competition. But it is also used by identity thieves who might already have one piece of your information and can go digging through your garbage to get the rest.
Caution, credit bureau websites are filled with scams where you are charged some shitty monthly free for crap that you don’t need. I have been very careful to steer you away from any of those products by giving you the exact page on each credit bureau’s website.
Go to this page on Equifax to get started.
1. Enter the information that’s requested.
2. You will then get a page which will confirm that you want to place a freeze (stupid!).
3. You will be charged $10 which you can pay only by credit card. Yes, let’s offer more opportunities for theft of our credit card number by entering it online while trying to protect our identity. Brilliant.
4. Once processed, you will be taken to a page where you can download the PDF which contains your PIN. You will need this PIN in order to thaw/freeze your Equifax account in the future.
This website was much easier to use. You can go to this page on the Experian website to request your freeze.
1. You will then follow the prompts to freeze your report.
3. You will be asked the same exact information as above, name, address, social security number, and DOB.
4. Next, you will need to verify your identity. 5 questions will be asked that only someone with your credit report in front of them could answer (or yourself).
5. You get to pick your own PIN which is nice, and at the end, you will get a chance to print out the PIN.
Sadly, this one is a pain in the ass. They are serious about their shit, so you need to create an account with a username and password.
1. Go to this page on the TransUnion website to start the fun.
2. After multiple attempts, getting kicked out, having to log back in and entering my information, I finally was able to pick a username and password. Tons of fun.
3. You proceed to the freezing part. Here, again, I got kicked out a bunch of times and had to enter my social security number a few times to get back in. Finally, got to choosing my PIN.
Got kicked out yet again after entering my credit card info and before reaching the confirmation page. TU was more than happy to take me to the credit card screen again to enter my credit card info but I decided to check my bank account and yeap, I already got charged the $10. You can call them at 888-909-8872 to establish the credit freeze over the phone.
Update: I called them the following morning and got through to someone who explained that until the payment processes the freeze won’t go through which would make sense if that was indicated on the website. So, I will have to wait until the payment processes and then check and see if I have a freeze.
What Are Your Alternative Options?
There are credit monitoring agencies which you can pay a monthly fee to, somewhere in the $10-30/month range.
They advertise that they will watch for any suspicious activity and report this to you immediately.
Companies such as LifeLock will go as far as to guarantee your losses up to $1,000,000.
I have no information on such companies except for what I have read about them online. If you have a high enough net worth and do a lot of online dealings then it might make sense to add this extra layer of protection.
However, I am not about to sit and read the fine print that I’m sure I would have to agree to which spells out all the reasons why I wouldn’t be able to get that $1,000,000 should something shitty happen.
The 4th player in the credit reporting game which wasn’t even known to me is Innovis. There is a 5th one as well. I discuss these 2 in this other post.