2017-10-26 / Front Page

Credit freezes protect against ID theft

By IDA M. JACKSON
Family and Consumer Sciences County Extension Agent

Are you among millions of consumers whose personal information has been compromised by Equifax’s recent security breach? To find out if you were affected, visit: https://www.equifax.com/ personal/?/

A cred- it freeze is a good idea, whether your information was compromised or not. You need to obtain a freeze from EACH of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). The freeze is free for seniors (65 and older) and for victims of identity theft. The cost to obtain a security freeze for other Georgia residents is three dollars per reporting agency. Freeze your credit file with all three credit reporting agencies for a one-time fee of nine dollars – much less than the monthly cost of most credit monitoring services.

Freezing your credit file prevents anyone from opening new credit accounts in your name. Should anyone apply for credit using your personal information, the lender will not be able access your credit report. Without access to your credit history, the lender will deny the credit request.

A credit freeze does NOT affect your ability to use credit cards you already possess. Identity thieves may steal your card number, expiration date, and other information needed to use the card. As long as you report the loss of your card within 24 hours or notify the lender of unauthorized purchases, other laws limit your liability to no more than $50.

A security freeze on your credit file does not completely block access. Insurance companies, existing creditors, and law enforcement agencies can still access your information. Other entities cannot see your credit file unless you temporarily lift (thaw) the security freeze.

Once you obtain a security freeze, to apply for new credit you will need to pay three dollars per credit reporting agency to temporarily lift (thaw) the security freeze. Georgia law requires the thaw to be available within 15 minutes of the request. Thawing the account is easily done with a Personal Identification Number (PIN) or password provided by the credit reporting agency.

A security freeze may not be for everyone. In situations of actively shopping for a mortgage, car loan, utilities, or other new credit, wait until the transaction has been completed to freeze your credit file. Keep in mind that a security freeze on your credit file will not prevent fraud involving existing bank or credit accounts.

You can request a security freeze online at Experian.com, TransUnion.com and www.freeze.Equifax.com. You may need to enter freeze in the search box on the Experian and TransUnion sites to find the right page. Expect to spend five minutes or less on each web page to obtain your credit freeze.

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