Most lenders review applications for credit by obtaining a credit report from one of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion.
You can place a credit freeze, sometimes called a “security freeze,” to block the credit bureaus from releasing a credit report, which helps prevent identity thieves from misusing your personal information to gain access to new forms of credit issued in your name. You must block each credit report separately. If you want to obtain a new credit card or loan, you must temporarily or permanently remove the credit freeze.
Credit freeze legislation is passed on a state-by-state basis, with state fees for placing or lifting a freeze with each credit bureau ranging from free to $10. Some states lower or waive fees for identity theft victims.
In states that lack credit freeze rules, consumers can use voluntary programs from the three credit bureaus. Each charge $10 for placing or lifting a freeze.
Check the rules and fees for getting a credit freeze in your state by visiting consumers union.org. Click on the “Money” tab and select “Financial Privacy Now.” Look for the “Security Freeze” section and click on “State Security Freeze Laws.” Weigh the costs of getting a credit freeze against the benefits for your situation.
You already have other options that can help protect your credit:
- Place a “fraud alert” on your credit report to tell businesses you have concerns about ID theft. Visit the FTC Web site for more information.
- Opt out of “preapproved” offers from credit card and insurance companies to prevent identity thieves from intercepting these mailings. Call 888–567–8688 toll-free.
- Protect personal information. Keep personal records in a secure location, never share sensitive information with callers or via e-mail, and shred discarded documents.
- Monitor your credit report and financial accounts to spot potential fraud.