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How to Freeze Credit
If you feel you have been a victim of identity theft you may want to freeze your credit. Freezing your credit will help prevent further credit fraud. This article will tell you how to freeze your credit and/or get a credit bureau fraud alert placed on your credit report.
If you are concerned about identity theft – having someone pretend to be you in order to open accounts or get loans – then you might consider a credit freeze. A credit freeze means that no one can open a credit account in your name. Credit card, car loans and home mortgage loans are all included. And no one includes you. When you put a credit freeze on your account, not even you can get new credit. It is important to note, however, that the credit bureaus all have different processes that you have to follow, and that it costs money (usually $10). Additionally, you will probably have to pay to unfreeze it – and pay again to refreeze your credit once you get your loan. However, if you have been a victim of identity fraud, you can get a credit a credit freeze for free.
How to freeze credit
You should realize that there might be different technicalities, depending on state and the credit bureau. You will have to go through the process with each bureau in order for the freeze to take effect. You should call the credit bureaus to find out what is required. Here is an overview of what you need to freeze your credit, however:
Experian requires that you send your name, Social Security Number, birth date, two years worth of address, one utility bill and a copy of your driver's license. You have to either overnight this information – along with a form – or send it certified.
Equifax also requires a certified letter. You need your name, address, birth date, Social Security Number, utility bill and payment for the freeze. If you have been a victim of identity fraud, you need to send a copy of the police report.
TransUnion has the least onerous requirements for a credit freeze. All you need is payment, along with your name and address, your Social Security Number and a copy of your driver's license.
If you do have a credit freeze, and you want to "thaw" it in order to get a loan, you will have to go through a process that is as involved. One solution is to find out which credit bureau your potential lender uses to check credit, and then unthaw that account only, in order to save a little bit of money.
Credit bureau fraud alert
If a credit freeze seems a bit much for you, you can actually get a fraud alert put on your credit. In these cases, lenders are required to take extra steps to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name. This is actually very helpful in some cases, and can provide extra protection against identity fraud. It doesn't provide as much protection as a credit freeze, but it doesn't cost as much, either.
Anyone can have a fraud alert placed for 90 days. It can be renewed at the end of 90 days. You only have to contact the one credit bureau for this to take effect; that bureau will then notify the other two. If you have been a victim of identity theft, it is possible for you to get an extended alert that lasts for seven years. During this time, you will get two free credit reports every year from each of the bureaus.
It is a very serious thing to get a credit freeze. It will cost you money if you aren't an identity fraud victim, and it can make your credit life difficult. Indeed, with nearly everyone from insurance companies to cell phone providers to cable TV providers running credit checks to open an account in your name, it can make it difficult to obtain some of the most basic services. In some cases, you might be advised to get a fraud alert instead. In most cases, that is sufficient.
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