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Credit Report Freeze

It is possible to freeze or lock down your credit report so that it can’t be viewed on request. It’s a drastic step in the effort to protect personal identity. But is it the right thing to do?

Frozen Credit Report: A frozen credit file prevents new creditors from accessing the credit file without the consumer’s consent. This can help prevent thieves from opening fraudulent accounts in the consumer’s name. Freezing credit files does not lower a consumer’s credit score, but it is considered an extreme measure and should not be done lightly.

Here are a few examples of how freezing your credit report could impact you. It would be difficult if not impossible to...

  • get new credit for a new purchase
  • to get a cell phone
  • to apply for a home loan
  • even apply for a job.

Is there a good reason to freeze a credit report? For someone who has been the victim of ID theft this could be a good decision. Also for the elderly who are not likely to be making new credit purchases and whose homes are likely paid for, there would be little need to have a credit report requested. Consumers that are victims of identity theft or over the age of 65 years can have their credit frozen for free. All other consumers must pay the fees set by the credit bureaus.

Fees involved: It cost $10 per bureau to have a credit file frozen, so $30. Different lenders use different credit bureaus, so consumers must freeze their file within all three bureaus. A married couple would have to pay $60 to have their credit file frozen across all three credit bureaus, and it would cost an additional $60 each time the couple lifts the freeze.

How does a consumer freeze their credit? Consumers must write a certified letter to each of the three credit bureaus. Once they have verified the consumer’s identity they will freeze the credit file and issue a personal identification number. This number will be required to lift or remove the freeze. Credit bureaus have five business days once the request is received to freeze the credit file.

Click here for details and sample letters to Freeze your Credit Report.

Can a consumer unfreeze their credit? To lift the freeze on a credit file, the consumer must contact each bureau, using their personal identification number, and specify how long they want the lift to be in effect. The credit bureaus are promising to process the lift within three business days of the receiving the request.

Things to consider before freezing credit...

  • It can be as much as $60 per freeze and lift for a married couple under the age of 65.
  • Insurance companies, potential employers, utility companies, cell phone companies and apartment complexes all pull credit reports on consumers.
  • It cannot prevent the theft of current credit card numbers or accounts.
  • It does not prevent existing creditors or certain government, state and local agencies from accessing credit files.
  • It can take up to three business days to lift the freeze.
  • It is time consuming to have the freeze put in place and lifted.
  • Consumers will have to plan in advance and be methodical about getting all business done during the specified lift time.

If you’re concerned about ID theft, there are alternatives to freezing your credit report. The credit bureaus and independent contractors offer credit monitoring services for a monthly fee.

Click here to see a comparison of ID protection services and vendors.

If you have questions about credit report freezes, contact us.

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