A drastic move to thwart potential credit fraud from someone who has stolen your identity is to put a credit freeze in place, such that potential creditors will be blocked from access to your credit report, and thus will not be able to obtain the information they need in order to issue credit to someone who is claiming to be you.
In order to freeze your credit, you must contact each of the three main credit bureaus:
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
Fees vary according to state law, but typically you will have to pay each of the bureaus $10 to put a freeze on your credit.
Once a freeze is in place, then any time a company contacts any of the credit bureaus and requests to see your credit report (which is routinely done when you or someone claiming to be you seeks new credit), they will be informed that that information is not available because there is a freeze on your credit report. As a result, they can be expected to turn down any such application for credit.
Which is what you want, if indeed it is an identity thief seeking credit in your name. But what if you yourself are trying to get credit? Have you effectively blocked yourself just as much as you’ve blocked the thief?
When you put a credit freeze in place, you will be given a special PIN number. Anyone with this PIN number can override the freeze and get access to your credit report after all. So when you, and not an identity thief, seeks credit in your name, you can give the potential creditor this PIN number so they can get your credit report.
Although this too varies by state law, note that each time you have the credit freeze overridden in this way, you will be charged another $10. If and when you have the credit freeze lifted entirely, that too will cost you $10, to each of the credit bureaus.
Also, a credit freeze does not apply to existing creditors. Their access to your credit report will be unaffected. Only potential new creditors will be blocked.
A credit freeze costs money, and it adds a level of inconvenience when you do want a company to have access to your credit report, but sometimes it’s the best thing you can do to protect yourself
Kimberly Lankford, “Fraud Alert vs. Credit Freeze.” Kiplinger.
“Defend: Recover from Identity Theft.” FTC.gov.