Identity theft and the assault on our credit records continues to get worse. The latest statistics from the Federal Trade Commission, indicate about 8.3 million people as victims of identity theft in 2005. My identity was stolen the previous year so I understand the frustrations those 8.3 million people felt in trying to repair and subsequently protect their credit. For perspective, back then 40 out of the 50 states had smaller populations than the number of people with stolen identities in 2005!
What’s the best way to protect your credit and keep your identity from being stolen?
The credit freeze is the single best way to protect yourself from identity theft in my opinion. If you’re only going to do one thing to protect your credit record, the credit freeze is the way to go. I’ve had a freeze on my personal credit for almost 4 years and since then, I’ve had no more problems. How do you put a credit freeze on your credit records?
1. Understand what a credit freeze is: A credit freeze allows you to lock (freeze) your credit record so no additional accounts can be opened. You select a secret credit freeze code that will allow you to temporarily “thaw” your credit should you need to apply for a loan. That added layer of security means that thieves can’t do anything with your information even if they get it somehow.
2. Understand how to initiate a credit freeze. Up until recently, not all states allowed you to put a freeze on your credit records unless you were the victim of identity theft. Lately, with the prevalence of identity theft, state legislatures have all lifted the ban on the credit freeze and all now allow you to use this valuable tool to protect your good name even if you haven’t been a victim. Non-victims have to pay for a credit freeze whereas victims do not, but the cost is only $10 per credit bureau. Believe me, that’s a lot cheaper than getting your identity stolen.
To unfreeze your credit record, you’ll also have to pay a fee, so keep that in mind if you’re planning on applying for loans in the future. Since I’m not planning to apply for any loans, a credit freeze is cheap insurance against identity theft for me!
To initiate a credit freeze, you’ll have to write letters to the credit bureaus, and you’ll have to provide proof of identity by sending copies of your driver’s license, state, or military ID and copies of your current utility bill, bank statement, or insurance statement. Be sure you send these certified, return receipt requested.
If you’re an identity theft victim (I feel your pain), you’ll need to supply a copy of the police statement along with the other identifying information to get a credit freeze.
Here are the addresses you’ll need to write to get a credit freeze from all three of the major bureaus:
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Each of the three credit bureaus have different policies and procedures for initiating a credit freeze so be sure and follow their instructions. You can find their credit freeze information by clicking the links below.
For a comprehensive look at the credit freeze, check out the Consumers Union’s Guide to Security Freeze Protection.
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