With last month’s announcement of a significant security breach at Equifax, consumers are being advised to take steps to protect their credit information. One suggestion from the Federal Trade Commission is to place a freeze on your credit files.
Placing a freeze on your credit report keeps lenders from accessing your credit. Your profile cannot be viewed by a lender until you lift the freeze. Restricting credit access makes it more difficult for someone to open a new account in your name.
Each new loan or rental application will require you to go the credit bureau website and temporarily lift the credit freeze. Remember when you fill out an application to ask what credit bureau the lender uses so you can grant access to your report. Credit bureaus allow you to grant access to lenders for a period of time or give you a pin to provide to the lender for one time access.
Some things to know:
- Each credit bureau has a separate process to freeze your credit profile.
- In some states, placing a credit freeze costs money. Fees vary depending on the state.
- The Equifax fee is waived for consumers until Nov 21, 2017 due to the security breach.
- Unfreezing your credit, even temporarily, also has a fee in some states.
The FTC also suggests placing a fraud alert on your credit report if you believe your information has been compromised. Fraud alerts notify lenders of the heightened risk of identity theft of your information and instruct them to verify your identity before issuing credit. Fraud alerts are free to place and stay active for at least 90 days.
Looking for more information? Here are some resources to get you started.
The Equifax Data Breach - Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Credit Freeze FAQs - Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Trans Union Freeze Center – Transunion.com
Experian Freeze Center - Experian.com
Equifax Freeze Center - Equifax.com