Congress just passed the new Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act of 2018 which offers some important new features for consumers. One of the most important features is the ability to freeze or unfreeze your credit report for free at all three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
This helps protect consumers against fraud that could hurt their credit reports. If you suspect that someone may have your information, you can obtain a credit freeze. This prevents creditors from accessing your credit report which also prevents them from extending you, or someone posing as you, a new line of credit such as a loan or a credit card. This helps prevent identity thieves from opening fraudulent accounts under your name.
To put a credit freeze on your report you will need to contact each reporting bureau separately. The important thing to remember is that the credit freeze will stay in place until you unlock it. If you forget that you put a freeze on your report when a creditor needs to look at your report they will be unable to. This could impact your ability to open a new bank account, get a new line of credit or prevent you from applying to a house or apartment. You will need to remove the freeze off your credit report before it will be accessible by creditors. When you remove it, you will again need to contact each bureau separately and expect that they will have a different authentication processes to unlock your report. You can also temporarily lift the freeze if you don’t want to remove it entirely but you want to be able to access your credit. Since each credit bureau will have a freeze on your report, it would save you time to find out which credit bureau will be contacted so you can contact that one in particular to temporarily lift the freeze.
Most importantly, a freeze will not impact your credit score! No matter how many times you lift the freeze or put it back, your credit score won’t be impacted.
If you want a less drastic method but are still worried about your account you can put a fraud alert in place. A fraud alert makes creditors take extra steps when opening a line of credit in your name to verify your identity. It creates multiple steps to verify identity. Putting a fraud alert on your account is also easier to do, you only have to call one credit bureau and the fraud alert will be passed along to the other two. Under the new law, fraud alert protection will cover your account for an entire year instead of expiring after 90 days like it did previously. That being said, you can always renew a fraud alert if you still think there is a risk.
If you want more information about the process of putting a freeze on your credit report or when to do so, visit the FTC’s page on Credit Freeze FAQs.