In today’s current technological environment, there are many ways for cybercriminals to access sensitive data and succeed in acquiring enough information to engage in identity theft. Often, many people don’t even realize that their credit is being used by someone else until it is far too late and severe financial damage has been done.
Thankfully, there are also several methods you can engage in to keep your credit intact and protected if you suspect that your own sensitive data has been compromised. These methods include security freezes, credit report blocking, and fraud alerts. Understanding how each one works can help you better decide which method you might want to utilize.
What is a Security Freeze?
A security freeze is one of the most effective ways you can prevent someone from committing identity theft with your credit. When you place a security freeze on your credit, the majority of lenders will be unable to pull your credit history. This prevents someone from being able to open up new credit card accounts in your name or apply for loans.
However, the one drawback is it also stops many companies that need to pull a credit history for you from being able to do so, such as telecommunications companies or insurers. If you are planning on moving, seeking to rent an apartment, switching phone service providers, etc., you wouldn’t want to enact a security freeze yet. A security freeze will last for as long as you like.
What is a Fraud Alert?
Somewhat less restrictive than a security freeze is a fraud alert. This just puts a notice on your account that there may be attempts at fraud with your credit. Any lenders, banks, and other institutions or companies that will be pulling your credit report will see the fraud alert. Subsequently, they will take steps to ensure that they are dealing only with you, and not someone seeking to commit fraud. A fraud alert lasts 90 days, but you can request extensions.
What is Credit Report Blocking?
Credit report blocking, also referred to as a credit lock, is similar to a security freeze, but gives you much more flexibility in unlocking it as needed. Unlocking a security freeze requires several steps and doesn’t happen immediately. You can turn off credit report blocking using your computer or mobile device when you need to. However, you may not receive as much protection with this method as you would with a security freeze.
If you feel you have been a victim of fraud or identity theft, contact the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, and discuss your options for protecting your credit. Credit already damaged? If you’re wondering if you should use a credit repair company to try to repair your credit, ask yourself a few questions about your situation and then do your research. You can start with Credit Repair Services: What You Should Know. Or you can check out our reviews of services like Sky Blue Credit Repair or The Credit People.