A new law allows you to freeze your credit with all three credit-reporting agencies with out charge. Plus, there is no charge to lift the freeze later.
In this past year, I had my personal and work credit card information stolen and over twenty thousand dollars of charges run up. Thankfully the credit card company covered the excess charges. The whole event was a hassle. To help make it harder to steal my credit information in the future, I froze all three-credit reports. It took about 30 minutes.
The following New York Times article gives you the details on how to freeze your own credit:
Freezing Credit Will Now Be Free
by Ann Carnes, The New York Times, September 14, 2018
Consumers will soon be able to freeze their credit files without charge. So if you have not yet frozen your files — a recommended step to foil identity theft — now is a good time to take action, consumer advocates say.
Security freezes, often called credit freezes, are “absolutely” the best way to prevent criminals from using your personal information to open new accounts in your name, said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy with Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer advocacy nonprofit group.
Free freezes, which will be available next Friday, were required as part of broader financial legislation signed in May by President Trump.
Free security freezes were already available in some states and in certain situations, but the federal law requires that they be made available nationally. Two of the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, have already abandoned the fees. The third, Experian, said it would begin offering free credit freezes next Friday. To be effective, freezes must be placed at all three bureaus.
Consumers suffer from “optimism bias,” the researchers found. They realized that the breach created risk, but did not think anything would happen to them personally. “People tend to underestimate their own risk,” said Florian Schaub, an assistant professor at the school and one of the study’s authors.
Others incorrectly assumed that because they had poor credit or little wealth, they would be unattractive targets for identity thieves. “They think: ‘I don’t have much money. I have nothing to lose,’” Mr. Schaub said. “But that’s not how identity thieves operate.”
People interviewed also cited the cost of freezes as a barrier. It can cost as much as $10 per bureau to place a freeze, and a similar fee is charged to thaw it temporarily when you want to apply for credit.
Consumer advocates hope that making freezes free will spur more consumers to use them. (The new law requires that a thaw must also be free.)
But the freeze process is not as easy as it could be, said Mike Litt, consumer campaign director for U.S. PIRG, the consumer advocacy group. He would prefer credit files to be “frozen” by default, and thawed on request. As it stands, consumers must place freezes separately at all three bureaus, and keep track of three PINs.
And because it’s not always possible to know in advance what credit bureau a lender will use, consumers typically must lift the freezes at all three bureaus when they want to apply for new credit.
Brett Merfish, a lawyer in Austin, Tex., said she froze her credit at all three bureaus several years ago, after her personal information was used to open “a steady flow” of fraudulent credit card accounts. The freeze process was “tedious,” she recalled, but ultimately effective because she no longer has problems with fake accounts. “It’s worth it to do it,” she said.
Checking your credit report periodically is also wise. You are entitled to one free copy each year from the big three bureaus at annualcreditreport.com. (A security freeze will not prevent you from getting your free annual report, the F.T.C. says.)
Here are the websites to visit to set up security freezes:
National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange: www.nctue.com/Consumers
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