Consider Locking Down Credit This Winter
Posted by Richard on December 15, 2022
In honor of the shivering fingers and toes of winter, it’s a good time to freeze something else: Your credit.
Freezing your credit these days can be relatively easy online and it can protect you from fraudsters looking to steal your identity and open credit cards in your name. If a criminal can get a credit card in your name, you might quickly find yourself hounded by collections and credit card companies and tangled up in a complicated identity theft scheme.
If you freeze your credit file, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, for anyone (including you) to open a new credit card in your name. If a criminal tries to open a credit card in your name, the potential card issuer will check the credit report. If they find that the credit file is frozen, the bank won’t approve the card.
Meanwhile, you can continue to use your active credit accounts without a problem. But you won’t be able to apply for a loan or a new card unless you unfreeze your account.
If you’re legitimately applying for a credit card, however, you can unfreeze your file. Once approved or rejected, you can freeze the file again.
Freezing your credit does not harm your credit score, but it might affect insurance rates if your insurer uses your credit score to set your rates. Check with your insurance companies. In addition, be sure you have already created your “My Social Security” account if you need to track benefits. If you forget that your credit is frozen and you try to apply for more credit, your application will be denied because the lender can’t access your account. However, it will not harm your credit because no hard inquiry can be made.
All three credit agencies will freeze your file for free. In the United States, the three major credit agencies are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. If you want to freeze your credit, you’ll need to set up an account with each individual agency. You can call the agencies, but it is easier to submit your request online. You’ll typically be asked to provide your Social Security number and other pertinent information that proves your identity. From there, you can log onto the credit agency’s online portal and freeze your credit file.