In early September, the credit reporting agency Equifax announced a significant data breach. Hackers were able to access the names, birth dates, Social Security numbers and addresses of 143 million consumers, which put their identity and credit at risk. A credit report freeze is one protective measure Equifax recommended. Every consumer, including you, should understand this protective measure as you protect your data, identity and credit.
What is a Credit Report Freeze?
A credit report freeze allows you to restrict who can access your credit report. When a freeze is in place, only certain professional entities can see your information, and it’s less likely that an identity theft can access your data.
Ways a Credit Report Freeze Affects You
When you place a credit report freeze on your account, it affects you in several ways.
1. It prevents certain entities from accessing your credit report. This includes potential employers, mortgage companies and car dealers.
2. Existing creditors and any debt collection agencies they hire and government agencies responding to a court order or subpoena may continue to access your credit report.
3. You can continue to access your free annual credit report.
4. It does not affect your credit score.
5. You will continue to receive prescreened credit offers for credit or insurance. Call 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or go online to optoutprescreen.com if you wish to stop receiving these offers.
How to Place a Credit Report Freeze
Contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies to freeze your credit report.
To place a freeze, you must provide your name, birth date, Social Security number, address and other personal information. You will also have to pay a fee. It typically ranges from $5 to $10 but varies based on where you live.
How to Know if Your Credit Report Freeze is Successful
After placing a credit report freeze, you will receive a confirmation letter from the credit reporting company. It includes a unique password or PIN you will need if you ever choose to lift the freeze.
How to Lift a Credit Report Freeze
Your credit report freeze remains in place indefinitely. However, you may want to lift it so you can apply for a job or credit. To do that, simply contact the credit reporting company to request a lift. You will provide your password or PIN, pay a fee that varies by state and indicate if you want a temporary or permanent lift.
A credit report freeze can protect your personal data and identity. Consider monitoring your bank, insurance and credit card statements, though, too, and purchase cyber liability insurance as a further protective measure.