Is a Credit Freeze the Right Move for You?
You have worked hard and have good credit. Now you are wondering how to keep it good. There are a number of ways you can keep an eye on your credit. Your job is to determine which way is right for you.
Do It Yourself
Review your statements each month to ensure the charges on the statement belong to you. If you see a charge you did not make, call your creditor immediately by calling the number on your statement.
There are a number of credit card companies and lenders that provide you your free credit score. Your credit score comes from the information on your credit reports. Your credit score will vary slightly, but if you see a significant decrease in your credit score and you have made all your payments on time, then you need to see what is on your credit reports.
Now until April 2021, you can pull your credit report for free every week directly at the three large credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. You can also pull your free annual credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Credit Monitoring Service
Or you can pay monthly for a credit monitoring service. Different services cost different amounts. If you are a person that does not check your monthly statements, this may be a good option for you.
Currently Experian offers credit monitoring at no charge. They do not say how long they will offer this service for free, however, they do not require you to provide a credit card to use their free service. Equifax charges $19.95 a month for credit monitoring and TransUnion charges $24.95 a month.
Oh, and do not be fooled by sites on the Internet that state, top 10 services or companies. Companies pay to be listed on those sites, it would be rare for the sites to have any independent verification the company or service should be listed in the top 10. If you are going to ignore the messages a credit monitory service sends you, this may not be your best option.
Place a fraud alert on your credit report. The most basic type of fraud alert is a temporary fraud alert that expires after one year. An extended fraud victim alert remains on your credit report for 7 years and you can renew them as many times as you want. Fraud alerts are free. A fraud alert does not impact on the contents of your credit report, but it can delay any credit applications you submit. A fraud alert requires the lender to take extra steps to verify your identity. Some automated credit-approval systems are not equipped to handle the extra verification steps and your application may be stalled.
To place a fraud alert on your credit report you only need to notify one of the credit rating agencies and they will notify the other two. However, to take a fraud alert off your credit report, you must request this of each of the credit reporting agencies individually.
If you travel a great deal and are worried that your information has been compromised but you do not have proof, then a fraud alert may be your best option. Keep in mind, if you apply for credit you may experience delays as the creditor has to verify your identity.
You also have the option of putting a credit freeze on your credit reports. A credit freeze is more extreme than a fraud alert and limits others from viewing your credit reports, including lenders. If you have been a victim of identity theft, a credit freeze may be something you want to consider.
If someone has stolen your social security number and personal information, they will be unable to open fraudulent accounts in your name. It will also make it impossible for you to get approved for credit while the freeze is in effect. So if you plan to use credit in the next 90 to 180 days, this may not be the right move for you. To have the freeze released you must contact all three of the credit reporting agencies. There is no fee to put a freeze on your credit reports. The credit reporting agencies do not specify the time it will take to release the freeze from your report, but you should plan that it may take up to 90 days.
A credit freeze does not completely protect you. If someone steals your credit card number, they still can attempt to make an unauthorized purchase. It will not protect someone who has your Social Security number from filing a fraudulent tax return or health insurance claims. So in the end, you still have to monitor your own good credit and finances.