How to Freeze Out a Fraudster

Does the thought of someone opening an account in your name and running up balances make your blood run cold? Depending on your state, you may be able to put a chill on thieves who want to commit this type of crime. By adding a credit freeze to your file, credit bureaus won’t be able to release your report and score to lenders and other businesses – which can prevent the approval of fraudulent accounts.

How it works
In most cases, financial institutions will need to see your credit report and score to consider you as a customer. However, if your credit file is frozen, they can’t access it and won’t be able to approve a new loan or credit line. As long as the freeze is in place, thieves will have a very hard time opening accounts in your name (and leaving you with the bill and credit mess).

Keep in mind that freezes are only effective against the type of fraud where a thief tries to open new accounts. If he has your existing credit cards or account information, he may be able to use them. Additionally, some businesses don’t check credit reports at all, and may grant a loan or provide a service in your name if the thief can provide them with your identifying data.

How to add and remove it
Many states allow you to freeze your file. Call the credit bureaus to ensure this is available in your state, and if any specific pricing or requirements will apply to you. If you can and you want to take this action, submit a written request to the bureaus, including your name, address, and Social Security Number. If you are a victim of identity theft and have filed a police report, include a copy of the paperwork too – you may be able to avoid having to pay the fee. If you do need to pay though, include your credit card number with the expiration date.

Once the credit bureau receives and processes your request, they’ll send you a private personal identification number and phone number that you can use to lift the freeze. You will need to “thaw” your file before applying for credit or if you want a potential employer, landlord, or other business to check your report (lenders aren’t the only ones who look at reports, after all). Depending on your state, there may be a charge to lift the freeze and another to add it again, though there is no cost to have it removed permanently.

Under the right circumstances, a credit freeze can be an effective way to prevent identity thieves from damaging your financial life.

Attn. Fraud Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834

Attn. Fraud Department
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348

Attn. Fraud Department
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013

Other Related Articles: Fair Credit Reporting Act, Consumer Fraud, Identity Theft

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