PIRG security freeze and identity theft prevention tips

Kathryn Lee
Sep 11, 2017 · 4 min read

The first defense against any kind of identity theft is to be vigilant about protecting your personal information by taking steps like creating secure passwords, installing anti-virus and anti-malware software, and shredding personal documents.

However, if and when someone does steal enough of your information to commit any form of identity theft (new account financial identity theft, theft of medical services, theft of tax refunds, etc.) there is really only one type of identity theft that you can stop before it happens: New account identity theft, where someone opens a new account in your name. All other types of identity theft and fraud, at best, can only be detected after the fact. New account identity theft can only be stopped by a security or credit freeze; credit monitoring may detect it after it has already happened.

Image for post
Image for post

Helpful things to know about security freezes:

  • A security freeze does not affect your ability to use existing credit you already have, such as a credit card or loan, nor does it prevent existing creditors from reviewing your continued eligibility for current or additional credit.
  • You can easily unfreeze or “thaw” your credit report when you want to apply for new credit. Freezes can be temporarily or permanently lifted when you want.
  • A security freeze does not affect your credit score. In fact, a security freeze helps protect your score by preventing your credit from being negatively scored if someone tries to fraudulently apply for credit in your name.
  • Security freezes are available to consumers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. A security freeze costs between $3–10 for each of the three major national credit bureaus, depending on the state. There is a $2–12 fee, depending on the state, for unfreezing your credit report with each bureau. All states give you the right to free security freezes if you can prove that you are an identity theft victim. Some states offer them for free to consumer 65 years+. There are six states where freezes are free to all consumers, whether they are identity theft victims or not:Colorado, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
  • Security freezes can also be placed by parents and legal guardians of minors and medically incapacitated consumers.
  • Consumers who chose a security freeze should account for the time it can take to thaw their reports if they want to apply for credit in the future. In most cases if a request for a thaw is made online or over the phone, a report can be unfrozen within 15 minutes. However, it can take longer if a consumer lost his or her PIN number that was assigned when the report was frozen. It can also take up to three days of receipt of a thaw request if it is made via postal mail.

How to Freeze (and Unfreeze) Your Credit Report

  • You will receive a PIN number for your credit freeze with each bureau. You will use this PIN number when you want to unfreeze your credit report any time you want to apply for new credit.
  • If you want to temporarily lift a freeze because you are applying for credit or a job, try to find out which credit bureau the business uses to check credit reports. You can save some money and time by only lifting your freeze for that credit bureau.
  • You can temporarily lift a freeze for a particular creditor or for a specific period of time, from one day to one year.
  • Make sure to account for the time it can take to thaw your report. In most cases if you request a thaw online or over the phone, your report can be unfrozen within 15 minutes. However, it can take longer if you don’t have your PIN number that was assigned to you when you froze your report, so make sure to keep your PIN number in a safe, memorable place where you can quickly retrieve it when needed. It can also take up to three days of receipt of your request if you make it via postal mail.

Placing and Lifting a Security Freeze with Each of the Credit Bureaus

Equifax

Experian

Experian includes a potentially confusing three paragraph “Security Freeze Warning.” They are just explaining that you will need to unfreeze your credit report before applying for credit if you ever wish to do so in the future. You might also notice right next to their warning is an offer to purchase their credit monitoring service for $15.95 a month — again, the credit freeze is the ONLY way to prevent new accounts from being fraudulently opened in your name and is much cheaper than paid credit monitoring.

TransUnion

Additional detailed Identity Theft Tips from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission are here: https://www.identitytheft.gov

If you found this piece interesting or useful, please recommend it, by clicking the clap icon below, so that others can find it on this platform.

U.S. PIRG

U.S. PIRG

Kathryn Lee

Written by

U.S. PIRG

U.S. PIRG

U.S. PIRG is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. Part of the Public Interest Network. https://uspirg.org/

Kathryn Lee

Written by

U.S. PIRG

U.S. PIRG

U.S. PIRG is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. Part of the Public Interest Network. https://uspirg.org/

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store