Freezing a Credit Report to Prevent Identity Theft

by John Stevenson on August 7, 2011

It is now possible to freeze one’s credit history as a means of protecting yourself from identity theft. The exact procedure goes like this. You file an application to have your credit frozen at the credit bureau that services you. This way, you can keep potential identity thieves from applying for credit on your behalf and draining your accounts. There are a number of preventive measures you can take to this end. If you destroy all documents containing personal information, including monthly bills and incidental credit card offers, this will surely decrease the risk of identity theft. If you freeze your credit history, no companies will be able to access your personal data unless you give them permission.

There are certain things you need to keep in mind though. Freezing your credit history may postpone and prohibit the approval of all applications or requests involving access to your credit report. Examples of such are new loans, credit, mortgages, insurance, rental housing, employment, and investments. Others include utilities, licenses, online credit card transactions, and more. While the freeze lasts, credit card companies will be banned from updating any and all information on your credit report. You have to call your credit bureau if you want such changes to be made. You will have to lift the freeze temporarily or remove it if you want to open a new credit account or something like this.

Victims of identity theft are usually eligible for free security freezes. If you are interested in this option, you should present a copy of an identity theft report which you have provided to the police or another governmental law enforcement agency.

Freezes are rarely shared with other credit agencies, so if you want another agency to access your credit history for some reason, you have to notify them directly. It is possible to arrange freezes online, over the phone, or by mail. 

Another possibility is available to certain customers depending on their age group. People of certain ages can get a security freeze for free if they send their credit bureau a document authenticating their birth date. Such a document can be a birth certificate, a driver’s license, and others.

If you want a temporary lift on the freeze, you have to choose between a full lift and a specific one. A full lift makes your credit record available to all third parties, whereas a specific lift will allow only certain third parties to receive it. They must have a unique access code and concrete purpose. You can order a temporary lift online, by phone, or by mail.

When you decide that the identity theft threat no longer exists, you can choose to permanently remove the freeze. This is also possible, of course. If you want to do this by phone, you have to give the operator your date of birth, your unique security freeze PIN number, and a way of paying for the respective fee, if there is one.

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