Yeah. You should freeze your credit immediately.

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Some used to say that freezing credit was more hassle than necessary. This is now false. Freeze it all.

Today, many entities are incentivized to steal your identity, and the increasingly common data breaches, coupled with the computational ability that bad actors have to merge data files (i.e. to match up your birthday, your email, your SSN, etc.) across data from breaches, make it not just possible but lucrative and, unfortunately likely as well.

I am no expert on any of this, but I do trust the experts, and I’d recommend this blog post, written by a friend of a friend, who explains the scope of risk for you today. It’s also where I learned that there are not three, but five credit bureaus.

What freezing your credit reports does, and does not, protect you from

Please turn to the experts for more detail but I can summarize to highlight key points.

Freeze does this

It stops bad actors from opening new lines of credit in your name. Freezing your credit hides your credit report behind a pin, so someone looking to give you (or “you” – i.e. someone pretending to be you) a new line of credit, can’t do it, since they cannot get your frozen credit report.

Freeze does not do this

It does not stop bad actors from using any of your existing lines of credit. There are many forms of fraud, such as gas station credit card skimming, or breaches from online communication which result in credit card account numbers being compromised. Your frozen credit does nothing to stop any of that.

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That’s why you should do both: freeze your credit and turn on fraud alerts for your existing accounts

Freezing your credit can impede bad actors from opening up new accounts in your name. Fraud alerts on existing accounts can let you know when “suspicious activity” has been detected on your accounts.

Are there reasons to not freeze your credit? Any downsides?

For sure. Any time you want to access your credit report, you have to “thaw” it, or unfreeze your credit. You might get a thought like, “Hey. I’m going to buy this car, and I will need a loan.” Or maybe even, “I’m going to buy this phone, and I will need a new mobile phone service contract.” All of that requires a credit inquiry that will not be accessible if your credit is frozen. But you can temporarily give the access you want, by providing your pin. Yes, it’s annoying. Yes, it’s worth it for some level of protection.

Here is how to freeze your credit, everywhere, right now

Go through the five links here. Complete each freeze. It will take about 5-10 minutes for each. You will provide your SSN, DOB, phone, email, address, and, for a couple of them, your driver’s license. Some also have your confirm your own identity by answering credit report based questions. For those that let you choose a pin, choose a unique pin, think “strong password” and remember that you are doing this for a reason.

After each freeze, print or screenshot the confirmation page that gives you some information. Write on this page your pin number (for those who let you choose it up front). Come back to these documents later and write the pins from those who assign and mail your pin later.

Then store these five documents, with your pin for each, in a secure place. I like sync.com myself for their security. So when you do need to use your own credit, these are the pins you need to have access to in order to temporarily thaw or unfreeze your credit and access it. Okay?

Save the following files and also your pins in a secure place – you will need this info to ever access your own credit again!

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About Erika Sanborne

Erika Sanborne has been producing media since 2014, specializing in corporate and higher ed video explainers, portraiture, green screen videography, and other digital media productions. Her latest passion in graphics is data visualization.

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