Freeze Equifax Credit Report: When Is It A Good Time To Freeze Your Credit?
Having your identity stolen is an awful situation, particularly with the recent Equifax data breach. If a hack of your credit information occurred you may be at risk. In addition, the process of getting your name cleared up is long and difficult. It can take several months or even years to fix the situation. As a result, you often end up feeling as though you’re the criminal, not the victim. Freezing your credit report can be an excellent option for preventing identity theft or protecting yourself if it already happened. Let’s take a look at what you need to know to freeze Equifax credit report.
What Is a Credit Report Freeze and How Does it Work?
A credit report contains all the information regarding your payment pattern. Creditors typically use this information to make credit decisions about you. Freezing your credit report means sealing it with an extra security layer. You will receive a personal identification number that you can use whenever you want to make a legitimate credit application. That way, you can unfreeze the credit report, and a creditor can pull your file when it needs. It’s important to know that freezing your credit report in no way affects your credit score – it’s simply an added measure of security.
So, in case of identity theft, thieves can no longer establish new credit in their name – they might have been able to get your personal information, but banks and creditors require a credit check. Not being able to perform the credit check, the banks will deny your (or in this case, the thieves’) application for credit, keeping your credit score intact.
Should You Freeze Your Credit Report?
Here are some of the reasons why you should freeze Equifax credit report:
- Your credit card’s number has been stolen
- Your email address has been stolen or accessed by other people
- Have a subscription to a credit monitoring service
- You are a victim of identity theft
- You want to prevent future identity theft situations
However, don’t freeze your credit reports if you regularly access them for work or for creating new accounts at different financial institutions. The costs of constantly freezing and unfreezing your reports would significantly increase.
Credit Report Freeze Conditions
Security freeze laws differ from state to state. For example, most states require you to reach out to a credit reporting agency or credit bureau if you want to freeze your credit reports. There are, however, nine exceptions. All three credit bureaus in the states of Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Virginia allow their customers to freeze their credit reports voluntarily.
The freeze duration is also different from state to state. In Kentucky, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and South Dakota, a freeze lasts seven years, while in the other states it remains in effect until the customer removes it.
Make sure you check the freeze laws in your state on the credit bureau’s website. For those that live in the states mentioned above, be sure to have a reminder on your calendar for when the seven-year period finishes. Otherwise, you may go months or even years without realizing your credit protection against identity theft has expired.
As far as fees are concerned, they typically range between $5 and $20 for operations like freezing, temporarily lifting the freeze, removing the freeze, or replacing the personal identification number (PIN). Victims of identity theft do not pay any fees to freeze their credit reports.
How to Freeze Your Credit Report at Each Credit Bureau
The three credit bureaus are Equifax Credit, Experian Credit, and TransUnion Credit. For each of these bureaus, you can freeze your credit either online on their website, by phone, or by certified mail, requesting a return receipt. If you choose to do it by mail, you will need to use a sample letter they provide. You must also check to see what attachments you need to include. Another operation you can perform online or by phone is a temporary thaw.
Make sure to check your state’s listing to find out exactly how much the operation costs, and if they offer any cost reductions in case you are a senior citizen.
With so many security breaches happening nowadays, considering a credit report freeze can be a good idea. Whether you’re aware of it or not, it can happen to anyone, at any moment. So, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
If you want to learn more about how to freeze Equifax credit report, the professionals at Creditsquared can help you through this complicated and sensitive process.
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