One of the best ways to protect your credit and identity is to freeze your credit. When you do this, even if your data is compromised, no one can open a new line of credit in your name, including you. The thieves can have your information, but as long as there is a security freeze in place, they cannot utilize the information to open new credit.
Of course, the time will come when you will want to thaw your credit. For instance, my husband and I have had our credit frozen since 2009. Just last month, when we looked into getting pre-approval for a mortgage, we had to thaw our credit. Doing so took me about an hour and cost us $60. Three days later, after the mortgage broker had pulled our credit reports and scores, our credit was once again frozen.
How To Thaw Your Credit
If you’d like to thaw your credit, you can do so by mail, by telephone, or online. The easiest and quickest way, obviously is by phone or online:
Equifax: 1-888-298-0045 or online
Experian: 1-888-397-3742 or online
TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872 or online (note: TransUnion makes you create an account before you can lift your freeze online)
What You Will Need to Thaw Your Credit
You’ll need some basic information such as your name, birth date, address, and personal pin. (When you freeze your credit for the first time, each credit bureau will send you a letter with a 8 to 10 digit pin. You must keep this secure because you’ll need it to thaw your credit.)
The credit bureau will also let you choose from removing your credit freeze permanently or lifting it temporarily for a few days up to a few months. (You get to choose how long you want the freeze lifted.)
Finally, depending on your state, you will likely need to pay a fee to thaw your credit. In my state, I had to pay $10 to thaw my credit from each bureau, but some states charge as little as $2. (If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you may not have to pay to freeze or thaw your credit.)
While freezing and thawing your credit can require a bit more time and money than leaving your credit open, you’ll be protected from identity theft and all the expense and time of clearing your good name. In my opinion, the inconvenience is worth the added security.