[ALERT] Freeze Your Credit Files For Free
A new U. S. federal law went into effect recently, allowing citizens to freeze and unfreeze access to their credit report files for free. Previously, credit reporting agencies such as Transunion, Experian and Equifax were allowed to charge for that service. Today you'll learn how credit freezes work, how they are different than 'credit locks' and why you should freeze ALL FIVE of your credit report files now. All five? Yes, read on!
What Is A Credit Freeze?
Most people know about the Big Three credit reporting agencies: Transunion, Experian and Equifax. But there are actually five that you should know about. I'll give you contact information and credit freeze details for all of them in this article.
When you order a freeze on your credit file kept at a Credit Reporting Agency (CRA), it means that no one – including you – can access the credit data in the file without your prior explicit permission.
So after you freeze your credit file, if you want to apply for a loan or new credit account, you will have to make arrangements with the CRA used by the lender to allow that lender access to your credit report; all other entities will remain frozen out. That lender’s access can be limited to a specified period of time, at the expiration of which the freeze returns.
Alternatively, you can tell a credit reporting agency to allow a specific lender ongoing access to your credit file while freezing out everyone else. Simplest of all options is to toggle the freeze on and off for everyone, but don’t leave the freeze off any longer than necessary
The new federal law – actually, a set of amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act and related existing laws - supersedes a patchwork of state laws regarding credit freezes. It makes freezing and unfreezing your credit files free of charge to you. CRAs used to charge as much as $10 every time you froze your file. They even charged fees to unfreeze a file, despite the fact that it is very much in a CRA’s best interest for you to leave your credit file unfrozen.
Why Freeze Your Credit Files?
CRAs collect credit data from creditors, and sell their accumulated data to many different kinds of nosey firms. Your credit report is the foundation of the enormous distributed dossier of personal data about you that exists unless you have been living off the grid all your life. CRAs make a lot of money selling data about you. This new law gives you the power to control credit data about you even though it is "owned" by CRAs.
Identity theft is much more difficult when a target’s credit file is frozen. Most credit files contain all the data needed to open a bank account, rent property, replace a “lost’” driver’s license or state ID card, and generally impersonate you.
Freezing your credit files helps to stop privacy leaks at their roots. As I said, a credit file is the foundation of the dossier that tells marketers – among other types of firms - what you buy, where you buy it, how much you spend, and other personal data obtained through Web activity tracking and other marketers’ tricks. Without your credit file data, nosey firms have a more difficult time keeping track of you.
What A Credit Freeze Won’t Do
A credit file freeze alone won’t completely eliminate the risk of privacy leaks or ID theft. The personal data needed to impersonate you is duplicated in many databases that have been stolen, sold, and resold by crooks many times. (See my article Equifax Takes The Data Breach Cake for details of how the Equifax breach allowed hackers access to the records of almost 200 million people.)
If a crook has a good reason to be interested in you particularly, he can piece together your personal data from the many stolen databases out there on the dark Web. But generally, ID thieves get plenty of victims from thefts of credit files and don’t look for more work. A credit freeze is a good start on protecting your identity.
Beware of Credit “Locks”
When you approach a CRA to freeze your credit, the CRA will try to persuade you to implement a “credit lock” instead. They’ll tell you a lock is as good as a freeze and your credit file can be locked or unlocked in minutes instead of the “up to five business days” that it can take to freeze or unfreeze a file. There are two reasons to insist on a credit freeze instead of substituting a credit lock.
A credit freeze is free; the law forbids CRAs from charging consumers to freeze or unfreeze their credit files. CRAs often lure people into credit locks that are free for a period of time but eventually cost an annual or monthly fee that is charged to your credit/debit card automatically. Or they may make the lock free if you accept online ads and marketing pitches; sales of advertising replaces consumer-paid fees.
And in some cases, a credit lock does not provide the same privacy protection as a freeze. For example, with an Experian credit lock, a potential employer or insurer can still see your credit report. But they can't if it's a frozen credit report.
A credit freeze’s terms are set by federal law, while a credit lock is a contract written by a CRA. That contract contains a clause that allows the CRA to change the contract’s terms unilaterally at any time. Appealing a change to terms of a credit lock or a breach of the contract is a tedious game rigged in a CRA’s favor; for instance, you may have to pay the fee of a private arbitration firm that is chosen by the CRA in question.
Insist on a credit freeze to get protection you can count on being there when you need it, and that can be enforced in public courts instead of private mock courts essentially “owned” by the CRA that does you wrong.
The Big Three, Plus Two
Remember that I mentioned earlier that there are FIVE credit reporting agencies that you need to know about? The fourth-largest credit reporting agency is Innovis, and you have probably never heard of it because who cares about a fourth-place anything? But you should put a freeze on your Innovis credit file as well as those maintained by the Big Three CRAs.
In addition, there are many firms that specialize in particular types of consumer data. One such firm of importance to most consumers is the National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange. As its name implies, the NCTUE collects data used by telephone service providers and public utilities to approve a consumer for credit that enables opening of accounts for phone and Internet service, electricity, water, natural gas, trash pickup, etc. It behooves you to freeze this important source of your personal data and enabler of ID theft as well.
Here is a summary of contacts for freezing your credit fles by going online, calling by phone, or writing a paper letter to the relevant CRA:
• Equifax Freeze Online
Phone: 1-800-349-9960 (automated), 1-888-298-0045 (live operator)
Mail: Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, Georgia 30348
• Experian Freeze Online
Mail: Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, Texas 75013
• TransUnion Freeze Online
Mail: TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
• Innovis Freeze Online
Mail: Attention: Consumer Assistance, P.O. Box 1358, Columbus, Ohio 43216-1358
• National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange Freeze Online
Mail: NCTUE Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105561, Atlanta, GA 30348
Have you implemented a credit report freeze? Did you freeze ALL of your credit files? Tell me about your experience. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 24 Sep 2018
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [ALERT] Freeze Your Credit Files For Free (Posted: 24 Sep 2018)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved