Several states allow individuals to freeze their credit report- which prohibits credit from being issued in their names. While some states, including Texas, Illinois, Washington and Vermont, only allow credit freezes if the individual has already been the victim of identity theft- other states, including California, New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina and Colorado.
All states allow individuals to place a fraud alert on your credit report. This means that before issuing credit in your name, the creditors are supposed to contact you for permission. This might sound like a great idea, but there are no laws that require that creditors follow the alert process, and usually even with the alert, credit is simply issued when applied for if the individual is approved.
What is a Credit Freeze?
When you freeze your credit report, no one can open any credit in your name. Potential lenders, insurers and potential employers cannot access your credit report. When you apply for lending or your employer wishes to check your credit report, the credit reporting agency will tell the company trying to look at your frozen report that they can?t see it due to an account freeze. Most companies will not extend lending at this point.
Credit freezes will stop potential identity theft victims from obtaining credit in your name, since lenders aren?t able to verify your credit worthiness. A criminal might have your social security number, name, mother?s maiden name, birthday- even your account numbers for existing accounts- and they should not be able to apply for and get approved for additional credit in your name because a credit freeze ?locks? access to your credit report.
You can, however, still allow the lenders of your choice to access your credit report, or to provide potential employers the ability to run a background check. When you have a freeze placed on your credit report, the three credit reporting agencies issue a personal identification number that can be used to lift the freeze when you have a specific need that requires access to your credit report.
How do you Freeze your Credit?
A little more complicated than sticking your credit report in the freezer, the good news is you do not have to pay to freeze your credit reports in most states if you have been the victim of identity theft. If you are placing a freeze on your credit report to avoid the potential for identity theft, most states will charge a fee of about $10 per credit report frozen (you?ll have to freeze each of your reports from the three major credit reporting agencies in order to be effective.)
You can permanently lift a credit freeze at no charge, but if you only want to temporarily lift a credit freeze for one or two potential lenders to verify your information, you?re going to have to pay- even if you?ve been a victim of identity theft in the past. Each state charges different rates for locking and unlocking credit reports.
Each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion have a different set of procedures to follow in order to place a freeze on your account. Typically, you?re required to send information by certified mail, and include your full name, address, social security number and birthdate along with payment for the freeze services. If you are the victim of identity theft, you?ll be required to send a copy of the police report or complaint filed with a law enforcement agency to prove the crime.
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