Freeze Your Credit Reports
There are 3 major credit bureaus that maintain electronic information about your credit; Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The role of these credit bureaus is to consolidate information about your credit-worthiness and provide that information to lenders. When you obtain a credit card, home loan, car loan, etc the information is, at a minimum, reported to and maintained by these bureaus.
What's a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, allows you to restrict access to your credit report. This makes it difficult for an identity thief to open new accounts in your name because most reputable creditors require access to your credit report before they an account in your name. To date, 49 states (excluding Michigan) as well as the District of Columbia have credit free laws requiring that consumers have the ability to freeze their own credit reports.
Why would I want to freeze my credit reports?
Freezing your credit reports is a low-cost way to add additional protection against fraud. You may want to freeze your credit reports in lieu of (or in addition to) paying for credit monitoring services as freezing your report is often seen a more permanent option for protecting your credit that does not require any recurring costs.
When might I want to lift a security freeze?
You can lift a security freeze when you intend to make a big purchase such as applying for a home loan, car loan, etc as well as if you plan to apply for a new credit card or obtain a mobile phone account. You can lift a freeze temporarily by date range so that after you close on your home or purchase that car your credit report will automatically freeze again.
How do I start?
You should note that if you live in some states (Maryland included) you will be required to pay a one-time fee (in Maryland it's $5) to freeze or life a security freeze.
Visit the "freeze" page for each of the credit bureaus to place or lift a security freeze:
- Equifax: https://www.freeze.equifax.com
- Experian: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
- TransUnion: https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze
A Security Freeze does not stop credit card companies from sending your firm offers to entice you to sign up for new credit cards. You do, however, have the option to opt-out of these offers by visiting https://www.optoutprescreen.com/ and walking through the opt-out process.
You can also visit www.annualcreditreport.com to get a copy of your credit reports once a year. Hint: Pull one of the three bureaus every 4 months to monitor your credit all year long for free!