Under Federal law, it is now free for all consumers to place a security freeze (also known as a “credit freeze”) on their credit file with every nationwide credit reporting agency. It is also free to lift (or “thaw”) the freeze to allow access to the consumer’s credit file. A lift is available electronically within one hour of the credit reporting agency’s receipt of the request, keeping on-the-spot credit an option for shoppers.
A credit freeze can be a powerful weapon against identity theft. When a freeze is in place, credit reporting agencies may not release the consumer’s credit report or credit score unless the consumer first removes the freeze by providing proper identification. Most lenders and creditors rely on access to a consumer’s credit file to determine the person's credit worthiness. By denying such access, a credit freeze makes it very difficult for an identity thief to open an account in a victim’s name.
It should be noted that the law does give some companies access to reports despite a freeze, such as insurance companies, potential employers and other persons performing background screening, existing creditors and law enforcement agencies.
To place a credit freeze on your file, consumers must contact each credit reporting agency directly. The three major nationwide credit reporting agencies are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
A credit freeze does not affect your existing credit in any way. However, if you want to apply for a new loan or credit card, you will need to again contact each credit reporting agency to have the freeze temporarily lifted or thawed.
There are other specialized credit reporting agencies, one of which is the National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange (NCTUE), which maintains data reported by some telecommunication, pay TV and utility service providers. If you wish to place or remove a security freeze on your NCTUE account, call 1-866-349-5355 or visit www.exchangeservicecenter.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp.
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