In 2003 the state of California passed laws allowing consumers to place a “credit freeze” on their personal credit profile managed by the major credit bureaus.
This was in response to emerging numbers of people who began to report identity theft through the use of Social Security numbers and other identifying information. Since that time, all but two U.S. states have passed similar laws that regulate the cost of placing a freeze.
By placing a credit freeze, or credit fraud alert on your credit profile, no third party such as a bank, credit union, or credit card provider can view your credit history without your permission. Unless you “unfreeze” your credit profile, no one can view your personal information or accounts unauthorized.
This method of credit monitoring prevents identity thieves who have already obtained your personal information from another source, from gaining access to credit or other benefits, Consumer.FTC.gov/.
Because lenders customarily run credit checks before issuing credit, identity thieves will be stopped before they get the chance to use your personal information. No lender will issue a new credit card or initiate loan proceedings without obtaining a credit history from a credit bureau first. As soon as lenders attempt to do this, identity thieves will be notified that an alert has been issued and access to your credit report has been denied.
Once this happens, your personal information does them no good. Identity thieves at this point may still attempt to sell your information to others for the same purposes, but at least your accounts will have some protection.
How To Place A Credit Freeze
1. Check State Laws – Placing a credit freeze is fairly simple, but must be done with each of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.The first step to placing the freeze is to find out if your particular state has a law in place that details consumer rights to freeze credit reports.Most states charge from $3.00 to $10.00 to freeze credit reports, and $5.00 if you are a senior citizen.
2. Contact Credit Bureaus – Contact each of the three credit report agencies either by mail or online. By calling a credit bureau phone number, you may also be able to request id theft protection through freezing information. If writing a letter include your name, Social Security number, date of birth, current address, and former address.
Most states allow victims of identity theft to request a freeze for free if they include a copy of the police report made at the time of discovery.
3. Include Payment – Enclose the required form of payment and the correct amount. Based on the requirements for your state, you may pay by check, money order or credit card.
4. Include Proof of Identity – Include copies of utility bills or your driver’s license in accordance with your state’s requirements.
5. Receive Confirmation – The credit bureau will notify you by mail that they have received your request and will generally enclose a PIN number for use to unfreeze reports when needed.
Mailing Addresses For The Three Credit Bureaus
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
Credit Bureau Phone Numbers For the 3 Major Credit Bureaus
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States that continues to plague consumers. Regardless of socioeconomic status, this “white collar” crime makes everyone, including children vulnerable to having their personal information stolen. While even the best credit monitoring service can’t stop identity thieves from stealing your personal information completely, understanding the steps to take to freeze your personal credit files can help provide some level of credit protection nonetheless.