I’ve been hearing a lot about credit freezing. What is it? When is it a good idea to freeze your credit?
-T. Pettaway, Bronx, NY
A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, prevents someone from opening an account in your name. All third parties whose use is not exempt by law, such as credit lenders, will be unable to access your report without your consent. To activate a freeze, send a request in writing to each of the three credit reporting agencies-TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.
It’s wise-and free-to put a lock on your report if you’ve been a victim of identity theft. Depending on state laws, fees range from $3 to $20 for nonvictims. The freeze can be removed by sending a request in writing or by calling each bureau. You might also be asked to provide your security freeze confirmation number, two forms of ID (such as a pay stub or W2 form), and a letter stating the reason for the removal. There is an additional fee, usually $10, to remove a freeze.
It may take up to three business days to process your request, and freezes may hinder your ability to access your credit immediately. If access to your credit report is required, for example, if you’ve applied for a new mortgage or employment, plan ahead and give yourself enough time to contact each credit bureau.