On September 21st of this year (2018) the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act now allows consumers to either Freeze their Credit or Place a One Year Fraud Alerts on their account for Free. Formerly consumers could do these two things, but depending on the state in which you lived in they often it required hefty fees be paid.
Social Security Number Security
Social security numbers which were originally first issued during the new deal to allow for benefits of older Americans has morphed into our national identification number. This all important number allows consumers (or criminals) to open lines of credit with often just this number, your address, and your full name, and date of birth. Therefore keeping your social security number secret is all important.
Recent Security Breaches
However relying on the secrecy of this specific nine digit numbers has never been enough. The recent headlines of mass social security number thefts from the likes of Equifax, meant that with one fell swoop almost a third of all Americans had instantly become victims of potential credit fraud. Government had to act and act it did. This new law reduces the overall cost to freeze your credit from upwards of $90 to zero. This makes it affordable to all Americans.
Your Socially Security – Security Options
Essentially you have three major options with regards to your credit file. You can choose to:
- Do Nothing
- Use a Fraud Alert
- Or Freeze your social security number
Obviously doing nothing provides you very little security and with the increased percentage of Americans that are starting to freeze their credit may leave you open to the question of “What were you thinking?” or “Why didn’t you freeze your credit?”
Fraud Alerts basically act as a notice when someone opens up a new line of credit but doesn’t necessarily stop them from doing this. Fraud alerts help a little, but they are by far the less secure of the two major choices.
A credit freeze is secure, fast, and should thwart all attempts to use your social security number for illicit purposes. Therefore it is the one most often suggested.
How to Freeze your Credit
Freezing your credit must be done with each of the three credit bureaus. You can either call or do this online. Be prepared to answer ‘challenge’ questions which will test your knowledge of your past credit history. Examples of this might be: Which street did you once live on? Maple, Oak, Main, Cider.
To Freeze your Credit with Experian either go to Experian’s Help page, or call 1-800-685-1111. Online click on “Security Freeze.”
To Freeze your Credit with Equifax either go to Equifax’s Credit Report Services page or call 888-397-3742. Online click on “Get Started.”
To Freeze your Credit with Transunion either go to Transunion’s Credit Help page or call 888-909-8872.
As with all information online, these exact webpages and forms are subject to change. Fill out all of the information that is required and if you run into issues doing it online you may have to call or even write an official letter requesting the freezing of your credit. Once completed – Each agency will give you a secret pin or access code which will allow you to unfreeze your credit file. Safeguard your logins and pin.
The Basics of Unfreezing
Unfreezing your Credit File is much simpler now that you will have a login with each bureau and a pin. The process to unfreeze your credit can be as fast as five minutes.
When you are opening up new lines of credit you will want to confirm which bureau you need to unfreeze. Often times only one or two will be required.
Summation of New Credit Security Law
The new credit freeze law is an incredible value for consumers. It allows you to leverage new technology to solve a recent problem. Freezing your credit is a personal decision that should not be taken lightly. However in light of how much of your information is out of your control, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act empowers you to protect it to your benefit. Just because this law has been created does not mean that it is protecting you unless you now act.
About the author
Scott W Johnson is the owner of WholeVsTermLifeInsurance.com, a life insurance site dedicated to assisting consumers in understanding the value of term life insurance. Scott is a consumer advocate and insurance agent who can often be seen on hiking the trails of Marin County California.