What You Need To Do To Freeze Your Credit

If you've ever fallen victim to identity theft you know the frustration and amount of time it takes to deal with trying to solve the matter. Of the five most common forms of identity theft in the United States, credit card fraud ranked number two with 389,737 cases reported in 2021, according to the Consumer Sentinel Network data collected for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). With so much personal data available online, credit card thieves could access your important information to either use the credit cards you currently have or to start new credit accounts in order to run up the balances before you become aware of the transactions.

These unexpected and unwanted acts against you could hurt your credit score and seriously impede your daily life, causing financial and emotional stress. This is why it's important to regularly check your credit statements and match the transactions to ones you know you have made yourself. Other signs you may have acts of credit fraud against you include receiving collection notices on accounts you haven't opened yourself and being turned down for loans even if you believe your credit rating to be optimal.

Early prevention of identity theft can help you stop the problem before it gets worse. One sure way to put a hold on your credit accounts if you need to is to freeze your credit. Now let's take a look at what that entails and the easiest way to move forward with the process.

How to freeze your credit

If you find that you've been a victim of credit card fraud, then you should make certain you contact your financial institution in order to make them aware of the situation. From there, you might have to explain what charges you're responsible for and which were made from a nefarious outside source. It might then be recommended that you put a freeze on your credit. This implies that there can't be any new accounts made in your name under your personal account identity. Luckily this also means that your credit score won't be jeopardized, you can lift it easily once the identity theft ordeal has been resolved, and it won't stop you from being able to use the unaffected credit cards you currently have.

To start the process of freezing your credit, also known as a security freeze, you must first contact the financial institution where you believe the fraud has occurred. Then — either online, by phone, or by mail — you need to reach out to the credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion in order to put a freeze on your credit. By freezing your credit files with these agencies, any subsequent request to obtain your credit report will be denied (so long as the freeze is in place).

By completing these steps to freeze your credit, you can ensure that no new fraudulent accounts can be made under your name, as lenders typically require your credit report first in order to approve any type of financing. Note that while your credit remains frozen, you'll still be able to use your credit cards to purchase items or pay your monthly bills, so long as they have not been compromised as well.