I saw this post about freezing your credit a few years ago, and I have referred back to it from time to time ever since. What follows is basically a summary of that article.
- Freeze the credit of everyone in your home for free (and forget about the stuff the credit bureaus are trying to sell to you).
- Notify a company called ChexSystems to keep an eye out for fraud committed in your name here.
- Opt out of pre-approved credit offers. You can do this for five years or permanently. (Why wouldn’t we all opt out permanently? I can’t think of a reason not to.)
More from the article:
A security freeze essentially blocks any potential creditors from being able to view or “pull” your credit file, unless you affirmatively unfreeze or thaw your file beforehand. With a freeze in place on your credit file, ID thieves can apply for credit in your name all they want, but they will not succeed in getting new lines of credit in your name because few if any creditors will extend that credit without first being able to gauge how risky it is to loan to you (i.e., view your credit file).
The benefit of putting a freeze on your credit is that no one will be able to take out any line of credit without you first removing the freeze. (Really, it should be the default.)
So unless you’re planning to open a new line of credit, you should freeze your credit and the credit of each of your family members at each of the major credit agencies. I know! A huge pain.
Online: Equifax Freeze Page By phone: 800-685-1111 By Mail: Equifax Security Freeze P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5788
Online: Experian By phone: 888-397-3742 By Mail: Experian Security Freeze P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
Online: TransUnion By Phone: 888-909-8872 By Mail: TransUnion LLC P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016
Less important, but may be worth freezing here, also:
(Here is more information about the various credit bureaus in the USA.)
Unfortunately, if you want to add a freeze for dependents under the age of 16, you have to “submit written documentation (“sufficient proof of authority”), such as a copy of a birth certificate and copy of a Social Security card issued by the Social Security Administration, or — in the case of an incapacitated family member — proof of power of attorney.”
You’ll be asked to create a pin for each credit freeze, and it’s very important that you keep track of each of them for when you need to remove the freeze.
It’s also a good idea to request a free copy of your credit report each year so that you can check to see if there’s any funny business on it. You can do so here.