There is no surefire way to keep your personal information safe and protected. The Equifax Data Breach of 2017 alone exposed the sensitive, personal information of some 143 million consumers in the US. The Under Armour data breach, which occurred in the spring of 2018, exposed another 150 million consumer records as well, including the records of many users of the company’s FitBit and MyFitnessPal products.
We all routinely give our information away to companies who ask for it and, once we do, the safety of that data is no longer in our control. Apply for a loan? You give away your information as part of the application. Sign up for a free app or product? You are typically required to enter personal information again. In the case of the credit bureaus, your information is collected from others (aka your creditors), whether or not you can recall giving your consent for this data sharing to occur. Your personal information is simply located in too many places for you to protect it. What you can protect, however, are your credit reports.
One of the best ways to keep identity thieves from using your credit without permission is to place a credit freeze, aka a security freeze, on each of your 3 credit reports (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). Whenever you place a freeze on your credit reports, even if your personal information has been stolen, you could greatly limit what an identity thief can actually do with it.
Security freezes take your credit reports out of circulation. This means that only you and your existing creditors (plus collection agencies) have the ability to access your credit reports and scores. If a fraudster illegally applies for an account in your name, the lender would not be able to access your credit. As a result, the phony application would almost certainly be denied.
Placing Credit Freezes
The most important thing to remember about credit freezes is that, if you opt to move forward with this type of protection, you need to request a freeze from all 3 credit bureaus. If you freeze less than all of your reports, your credit could still be vulnerable to fraud. However, once you have frozen all 3 reports, new lenders cannot access your credit unless you first “thaw” the reports – online or with a PIN number.
Thanks to new federal law, as of September of 2018 it is free for all US consumers to freeze their credit reports with Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Formerly consumers were often required to pay fees for the service. Additionally, the same federal law now gives parents the right to freeze their children’s credit reports as well.
You can place a credit freeze online with each credit bureau here:
- Equifax: https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/
- TransUnion: https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze
- Experian: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
Pros and Cons
There is no real downside to freezing your credit reports, other than perhaps a small time inconvenience. Let’s take a look at the benefits credit freezes may offer. First and foremost, freezing your credit reports offers great protection against criminals who might try to open fraudulent accounts in your name. By preventing criminals from using your personal information to commit fraud you can protect yourself from the hassle and cost of potential identity theft.
Credit freezes can also reduce stress. The fact that you have taken deliberate, responsible steps to protect your credit, especially if you know your information has been compromised in a data breach, can go a long way toward giving you a little peace of mind.Ready to repair your credit problems?
Ready to repair your credit problems? Our certified credit professionals at Financial Renovation Solutions can help. CLICK HERE or call us at 214.856.0068 to schedule a free credit analysis today.