Do You Need an Equifax Free Credit Report Freeze?
The news of the Equifax data breach struck fear into everyone, and rightly so. Social security numbers, dates of birth – someone out there has it all. Overnight, a little-known identify theft prevention strategy became common knowledge – credit freezes. With Equifax offering free credit freezes, it seems like a perfect opportunity to protect yourself. But there is more to it than meets the eye. Here are some things you need to know about an Equifax free credit report freeze:
How a Credit Freeze Works
A credit freeze blocks anyone from accessing your credit. This means people with your data can’t open new accounts in your name. That’s one of the largest risks of this type of data breach, so a credit freeze is a big help.
When you create the freeze, you’ll get a PIN code. Anytime you need to unfreeze your credit, you’ll contact the credit bureau and give them your code.
The Benefit of an Equifax Free Credit Report Freeze
Clearly, that word “free” is a perk. In normal circumstances, you would pay a fee to freeze and unfreeze credit. But because Equifax is responsible for your increased risk, they’re doing it for free temporarily.
The largest benefit is that a credit freeze stops one of the most damaging forms of identity theft. Someone could open a credit card, high-interest loan, or even a mortgage in your name. And you would have no idea until it had torched your credit.
What to Consider before Freezing Your Credit
Before you jump to freeze your credit, here are a few factors to consider:
You can only get an Equifax free credit report freeze until January 31st, 2018. After that, there will be a cost to freeze your credit with Equifax.
In order for a freeze to be effective, you need to place it with all three credit bureaus. Besides Equifax, this includes Transunion and Experian.
Fees vary by state, but most freezes will cost between $3 and $10 per credit bureau. You’ll need to pay these fees every time you freeze and unfreeze your credit. They’re small charges but they can add up if you use your credit often.
What Credit Freezes Won’t Do
A credit freeze doesn’t mean you’re free from identity theft. Anyone who gets your credit cards or bank account information can still use them.
A credit freeze also doesn’t block your existing creditors from accessing your credit. The same goes for collection agencies acting on their behalf. So sorry, it’s not a license to bail on your bills.
Other Credit Protection Options
A credit freeze is a great way to protect your identity and your credit score. But if you’re not sure, there are other steps you can take.
A fraud alert is a free service credit bureaus offer. If you place a fraud alert, creditors need to verify your identity to open a new account in your name.
If you don’t believe you’re at risk but you want to be safe, consider credit monitoring services. This won’t prevent fraud, but it will tell you when it happens so you can act quickly.
The Verdict on Credit Freezes
There’s nothing that protects your credit the way a credit freeze does, but it does have its downsides.
Ultimately, you need to be the one to decide if it’s the right option for you. But the guide above can help you understand and weigh the pros and cons.
For more helpful tips on credit and finance, explore CreditSquared.com today!
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