Money Why you might want to freeze your credit now

20:12  12 september  2017
20:12  12 september  2017 Source:   Reuters

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Better to freeze now than feel the burn of financial fraud later. That personal information is out there not just because you might have used your credit card at a disreputable website or Because lenders and creditors want to know your credit score in order to determine how likely it is that you ’ll

A credit freeze won’t affect your current accounts. So if a thief steals the information on an existing account, your credit may be used without your permission. How to Start Making Money on Etsy: From Idea to Shop. Lock Down Your Data After Equifax Breach — Right Now .

In the wake of the Equifax data breach that has exposed an estimated 143 million customer records to hackers, consumer credit experts have been recommending freezing one's credit as a protection against identity theft.

But most people will probably not heed the call, feeling it is simply too hard.

The process is cumbersome and can cost money, and you would need to approach it as a life-long commitment, since your risk for identity theft is not going away anytime soon.

Credit freezes protect you from pure identity theft when somebody sets up new accounts in your name, potentially ruining your credit score.

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Then you may be charged a fee of to whenever you want to lift the freeze and apply for credit . That's why U.S. PIRG is now recommending a freeze for all consumers.

Why would you want to freeze these credit reports? US Bank uses these two credit bureaus to check your credit score if you apply for any of their credit cards. The only credit card that might interest you is the Club Carlson Personal Credit Card from US Bank.

They do not, however, protect you from other forms of fraud, like a thief running up charges on your credit cards, stealing from your bank account or hijacking your tax refund. So you still need to be vigilant about keeping track of your accounts, which most people fail to do even though it requires minimal effort.

Paying a monthly fee for a credit-monitoring service is the next step up, but that only alerts you to new accounts and does nothing about them. Identity theft resolution services can walk you through the steps to clean up your accounts if you are attacked; however, that itself will not block access to thieves.

Freezing your credit goes the final mile. Credit card expert Matt Schulz, a senior analyst for creditcards.com, calls freezes the "nuclear option" for good reason.

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Learn why you might freeze your credit and how to do it here. But what if you want to take more drastic measures? One drastic measure you can take is to freeze your credit . A credit freeze , also called a security freeze , places a hold on your credit file.

A credit freeze requires individuals to contact each of the three consumer credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- and go through their respective processes to turn off access to your accounts.

To put a freeze in place, you will need to prove your identity through various means, like providing your prior addresses or perhaps a copy of identification such as your driver's license, says Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, CEO of askthemoneycoach.com and author of "Perfect Credit."

The fee will range from free to $10, depending on your state of residency. Equifax is offering free freezes for a month.

Once your credit is frozen, thieves should not be able to open new accounts, like a car loan or a mortgage, using your Social Security number. You also will not be able to get new credit -- including getting a retail store card on the fly for a great sale or a new cell phone contract -- unless you unfreeze the account first.

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But with a “security freeze ” on your credit file at the four major credit bureaus, creditors Check out the USPIRG’s full report, Why You Should Get Security Freezes Before Your Information They now have a “privacy manager” if you don’t want to “enhance” your experience of filling out a government

The time to act is NOW . If you live in a state that doesn't offer you , the consumer, the right to freeze your credit files, contact your state legislators to let them know that YOU WANT TO CONTROL who can access your personal and financial data.

You manage thaws and re-freezes via web portals maintained by the credit bureaus, with credentials they assign to you, says Robert Siciliano, CEO of idtheftsecurity.com, an independent consulting company. There may be a nominal charge (currently about $5) for the process each time you do it, he says.

Siciliano has frozen his credit three times since 2008, when the service first became available. If he needs to borrow, he calls ahead to the place where he needs credit, such as an auto dealership, and finds out which credit bureau they use. Then Siciliano thaws that account.

But human behavior being what it is, only one in three Americans have ever even checked their personal credit reports, notes Khalfani-Cox, and less than 1 percent have used credit freezes since their inception.

Just two of her clients have gone through the process after they were victims of identity theft.

Even Khalfani-Cox, a credit and debt expert, has never frozen her own credit. She intends to, however, if it turns out that her data was compromised in the Equifax breach and is waiting to hear back from the company.

"I absolutely will, it's not even a question," she says. "I’m on the side of doing more even if you have to pay a little bit for it."

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