Check Your Credit Report For Fraud
Look for accounts that don’t belong to you on your credit report. Accounts that you don’t recognize could mean that someone has applied for a credit card, line of credit, mortgage or other loan under your name. It could also just be an administrative error. Make sure it’s not fraud or identity theft by taking the steps to have it corrected.
If you find an error on your credit report, contact lenders and any other organizations that could be affected. Tell them about the potential fraud.
If it’s fraud, you should:
- report it to the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is the central agency in Canada that collects information and criminal intelligence on fraud and identity theft.
Other Ways To Protect Your Credit
If you don’t want to pay for credit locking and a credit freeze seems too extreme, there are other things you can do to keep tabs on your credit information and protect your identity.;
For instance, don’t forget that you can get your credit reports for free once each year through AnnualCreditReport.com. Reviewing your credit reports for errors or suspicious-looking activityand calling any that you find to the attention of the credit bureaucan help you preserve your good credit score.;
Pros And Cons Of Locking Your Credit File
According to Alayna Pehrson, digital marketing strategist at the consumer review site BestCompany, Its a lot easier to unlock and lock credit than it is to unfreeze and freeze credit.
Credit lock services typically cost a monthly or annual fee, Pehrson says. However, some bureaus now offer the service for free in light of recent data breaches.
Just remember, youll no longer be able to lock your credit report if you get rid of the service or product with a bureau.
As we briefly mentioned above, you should also note that credit locking isnt governed by law as credit freezing is in most states. This means that a credit freeze generally has more protections guaranteed by law, so you may have more rights if fraud occurs after a credit freeze as opposed to a credit lock.
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Is A Credit Freeze Right For You
Since credit freezes are free and dont affect your credit score, there isnt much downside to taking the extra security measure. You can also get free fraud alert protection that lasts for one year, and victims of identity theft are protected for seven years. Members of the military on active duty also get free fraud alert protection for one year and can opt out of prescreened credit card offers for two years. Prices for credit monitoring depend on the provider.
Whether youre a victim of or choosing to be proactive against these crimes, freezing is probably your best option for protecting yourself. You can freeze your accounts online, by phone or in writing with the three credit bureaus:
- Equifax: Call 800-685-1111, go online, or mail your request to: Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348
- Experian: Call 888-397-3742, go online or mail your request to: Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
- TransUnion: Call 888-909-8872, go online or mail your request to: TransUnion P.O. Box 160, Woodlyn, PA 19094
When Should You Lock Or Freeze Your Credit
Have you been worried about identity theft? If so, you might have looked into locking or freezing your credit. But, do you know the difference?
A credit lock and credit freeze generally do the same thing: they prevent anyone from opening credit in your name. But, there are also differences between these options.
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How To Freeze Your Credit Report After Identity Theft
Freezing your credit report is sometimes necessary. It can help prevent identity thieves from opening new lines of credit and other accounts in your name. Its often recommended when youre dealing with the ramifications of identity theft.
A credit freeze allows you to restrict access to your credit report. When you freeze your credit file, you prevent potential creditors from accessing certain financial and personal information. Creditors are unlikely to let you or an identity thief open, say, a new credit card, if they cant access your credit report. Thats because they wont be able to assess your creditworthiness.
If you need to freeze your credit, you can get a free credit freeze by requesting one at each of the three major credit reporting agencies. More on that later.
Freezing Your Credit Can Make It Harder For Scammers Trying To Open New Lines Of Credit Under Your Name
If you have concerns about account security and identity theft, freezing your credit can make your data more secure by restricting access to your credit report.;
Itâs free, but there are a few steps you have to takeâand multiple companies to talk to. Hereâs how to freeze your credit, plus other information about credit monitoring and protecting against fraud.
How To Remove A Credit Freeze And Credit Lock
The quickest and easiest way to remove a credit freeze is via the PIN code or password set up when you activated your credit freeze. You can call the credit bureau by phone or visit the credit freeze page on its website. If you’ve frozen your credit at all three national bureaus, you’ll need to thaw it at each bureau separately as well. You’ll have the option to thaw your credit permanently, lift the freeze temporarily, or to get a single-use PIN or password you can provide to a creditor you want to give access to your frozen credit file.
Removing a credit lock requires only that you flip a virtual switch online or in an app provided by one of the credit bureaus. When access to your credit file is no longer required, you can reapply the lock just as easily by turning the switch back on.
How Does A Credit Freeze Work
A “credit freeze” prevents a lender or creditor from accessing your credit history. If an identity thief tries to use your Social Security number and other personal information to apply for a mortgage, credit card, car loan, or another form of credit, the creditor would turn down the application because it can’t review your . A credit freeze won’t prevent misuse of your current accounts, though.
How to freeze your credit file. To protect your credit by freezing it, you have to initiate a freeze with each of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Typically, a credit freeze lasts indefinitely , though, in a few states, it expires after seven years.
How to thaw your credit file. Once your credit file is under a credit freeze, creditors will only be able to access your account if you thaw it for a specific amount of time or for a specific company or person. To thaw your credit file, you have to use a Personal Identification Number . Under federal law, the bureau must remove the security freeze not later than:
- if you make the request by toll-free telephone or secure electronic means, one hour after receiving the request for removal, or
- if you make the request by mail, three business days after receiving the request. .
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Should I Freeze My Credit
Experts recommend freezing your credit report so you can proactively monitor your accounts. Checking credit card bills, bank statements or credit reports periodically is helpful, but those actions are reactive and cannot ward off potential fraud.
A credit freeze is a free tool that limits access to your credit reports and can help safeguard against identity theft. Be aware that while credit reports are a great resource, they’re not a fool-proof way to prevent fraud. Credit reports reduce access to your credit and prevent new account openings, but they don’t prevent someone stealing your credit card number.
When To Get A Credit Freeze
If youre not actively shopping for a credit card or loan, freezing your credit is wise. Now that freezing credit and unfreezing credit are free, NerdWallet recommends that;all consumers protect themselves in this way.
If you think your data may have been compromised, for instance in a data breach, get a credit freeze. Its especially key if your all-important Social Security number may have been disclosed.
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What’s The Difference Between A Credit Lock And A Credit Freeze
While the end results are similar, . The major differences are as follows:
- Credit freezes are free, and their availability is mandated under federal law. They may be obtained by phoning or sending mail to Experian, Equifax or TransUnion. Unlike credit lock services, you can request credit freezes for your children under the age of 16, as well as for yourself.
- The credit bureaus are required to complete a freeze on your credit information within 24 hours of receiving a phone request and must lift the freeze within one hour following a phone request.
- When you request a credit freeze from a given bureau, it will give you a PIN that you must use when requesting the freeze’s removal. If you cannot supply your PIN, the freeze can still be lifted, but additional identity verification will be needed, and the one-hour response requirement is removed.
- After registering with each bureau and verifying your identity with them, you can turn access to your credit files on and off instantly via smartphone app or online, with no delays or PINs, when you lock your credit.
A convenience of credit lock is that it enables you to coordinate with lenders to enable access to your credit score when they need it to process your loan application, and then turn access off again when they finish.
Can I Still Get My Free Annual Credit Report If My File Is Frozen
Yes. To order your free annual credit reports, see our How to Order Your Free Credit Reports. For Experian and TransUnion reports, use the regular procedures for ordering. For Equifax, order by mail using the form included in How to Order Your Free Credit Reports and also provide the PIN issued to you by Equifax when you freeze your file.
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Comparing Credit Freezes And Credit Locks
TransUnion: Free with TransUnions TrueIdentity credit monitoring service. $19.95 a month with the TrueIdentity Premium service. You cant sign up for a credit lock without enrolling in one of the programs.
Experian: Free for the first 30 days, then $19.99 a month to keep the credit lock in place, after the free trial ends.
|What it does
|Prevents lenders and other financial institutions from accessing your credit reports unless you unfreeze them.
|Also prevents most lenders from accessing your credit reports until you unlock them.
|The big differences
|A credit freeze is always free. It may take more steps and time to unfreeze your reports.
|You must pay to lock your reports with some bureaus. Locking and unlocking your reports, though, is a simpler process.
Errors To Watch Out For On Your Credit Report
Once you get your report, check for:
- mistakes in your personal information, such as a wrong mailing address or incorrect date of birth
- errors in credit card and loan accounts, such as a payment you made on time that is shown as late
- negative information about your accounts that is still listed after the maximum number of years it’s allowed to stay on your report
- accounts listed that you never opened, which could be a sign of identity theft
A credit bureau cant change accurate information related to a credit account on your report. For example, if you missed payments on a credit card, paying the debt in full or closing the account won’t remove the negative history.
Negative information such as late payments or defaults only stays on your credit report for a certain period of time.
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How To Start A Credit Freeze
You must freeze your credit at all three credit bureaus separately. The bureaus will provide you with a PIN that you can use to;freeze and unfreeze your credit. Dont lose that number. Note, though, that;Equifax no longer requires you to enter a PIN when freezing or unfreezing your;credit.
Experian: You can start your Experian freeze either online or by calling the bureau at 888-397-3742.
TransUnion: Start a TransUnion freeze online or by calling 888-909-8872.
Equifax: You can freeze your credit with Equifax online or by calling 888-298-0045.
How much does a credit freeze cost? There;is never a charge to freeze your credit. This is a free service.;
How;long does a credit freeze last? A credit freeze remains active until you ask the;credit bureaus to remove it. According to the FTC, if you request that your;credit be unfrozen online or by phone, the bureaus must lift your freeze within;an hour. Many consumers lift freezes temporarily when they are applying for new;credit or loans.;
How long does it take for a freeze to go into;effect? Different states have different regulations;regarding security freezes. In California, the credit bureaus are required to freeze your credit no later than three days after receiving your request. In New Hampshire, the bureaus must freeze your credit within five business days of;receiving your request. In New Jersey, that time limit is again three days.
Protecting Yourself From Credit Fraud
Another option for protecting your credit data from fraudulent use is a fraud alert. But, again, a credit freeze is a better way to protect yourself from credit fraud. You can have both a freeze and alert in place at the same time, but if you’re going to choose one or the other, go with a freeze.
Whatever identity theft protection method you pick is entirely up to you, but no matter what you choose, you should also regularly get copies of your from each of the credit bureaus. Under federal law, you may get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Review the reports for all possible signs of trouble, like accounts you didn’t open, inquiries you didn’t initiate, and defaults and delinquencies you didn’t cause. Then, ask the credit reporting agencies to delete information related to identity theft from your credit report.
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Cons Of A Credit Freeze
There are a few, potentially:
A freeze can give you a false sense of security you may still be susceptible to fraudulent charges on an existing credit account if its been compromised, or health care or tax refund scams involving your Social Security number. Its still important to check monthly statements carefully for signs of fraudulent activity.
It can complicate creating a mySocialSecurity account . You can do so with a credit freeze or fraud alert in place, but you’ll have to go in person to;a Social Security office.
Your insurance rate could increase if your state allows the use of credit information to set rates. In some cases, insurers can’t access your frozen file and might not give you a discount a good score entitles you to. If that happens, you can call your agent to find out if you need to unfreeze your credit.
It can be somewhat inconvenient, because you need to remember to lift the freeze when you want to apply for credit. That inconvenience pales in comparison to having to unwind fraud or identity theft, though.
You may forget whether your credit is frozen.
How Do You Lock Your Credit At Each Bureau
Unlike a credit freeze, which you can add and remove from your account as needed, a credit lock requires you to enroll in a program. To make a credit lock most effective, enroll in the programs at all three of the major consumer credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Locking your credit costs nothing at Equifax and TransUnion if you enroll in their separate locking programs, but if you choose to use their joint program that locks both at once and also includes theres a fee. Theres no free option from Experian, but its credit lock program also comes with additional features like credit monitoring that may make the cost worth it to you.
To enroll in a credit locking program, youll fill out an online form that requires personal information like your name, address and Social Security number, and then youll answer some identity-verification questions.
Heres how each bureaus credit locking program works and how to enroll.
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What Does Freezing My Credit Do
When you freeze your credit, the credit reporting bureaus canât give any information to anyone who makes an inquiry about you. Typically, businesses inquire about your credit when you are trying to, for instance, open a new credit card, buy a car or rent an apartment. The credit check helps the business determine if they want to lend or rent to you, and it can help set your rates and lending terms for loans and credit cards.
When your credit is frozen and the business canât get any information about you, it typically stops the process â which means a fraudster will be unable to open an account while using your identity.
How To Freeze Your Credit For Free
With Experian, you can visit the Experian Freeze Center and request it online or call 888-397-3742. Provide the requested information and verify your identity to complete the process.
If you need to lift your credit in the future, you can do so by visiting your online account with each credit bureau or calling.
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