Earlier this year, Equifax, one of the nation’s three main credit reporting agencies, announced a massive data breach had occurred- potentially exposing personal info of 143 million consumers. Identity theft is on the rise, and everyone is vulnerable. In 2016 alone, about 1 in every 16 U.S. adults had their identities stolen. Signs of identity theft include a sudden drop in credit scores, mysterious credit inquiries and new accounts you didn’t open. While there is no way to stop identity theft completely, there are things that you can do to help protect yourself if you fall victim to identity theft.
One of the most effective ways is by freezing your credit.
What is a credit freeze?
A credit freeze is allows you to seal your credit reports and prevents anyone — including you — from opening new lines of credit in your name. Then, if you need to unfreeze your credit (say for processing legitimate applications for credit and services), you can “thaw” your credit with a personal identification number (PIN) that only you know. Freezing your credit has no impact on your existing lines of credit, such as credit cards. You can continue to use them as you regularly would.
Freezing your credit with all three agencies:
It typically costs about $3 to $10 per person per bureau to freeze or thaw your credit (although some states may be higher). When you do a credit freeze, it is imperative that you freeze your credit with all three bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can freeze your credit with each bureau here:
Keep in mind that, if your credit reports are accessed often for work or because you regularly create new accounts with various financial institutions, it is not recommended that you freeze your accounts.
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