New account fraud, in which someone uses your personal information without permission to open new credit accounts in your name, is probably one of the first things that springs to mind when you hear the words “identity theft.” It is still one of the more common ways thieves use stolen information. A security freeze is your most effective tool in preventing this type of identity crime.
A freeze prevents new credit accounts from being opened using your personal information unless you lift the freeze in advance of applying for new credit. This is accomplished using a PIN that is created when you place the freeze. A freeze can stop an identity thief from creating new lines of credit, even if they have all your information.
There are three major credit bureaus, and each has a specific method for applying and lifting a security freeze. While you can still request a security freeze by postal mail, going online is by far the easiest and quickest method. Make sure to visit all three bureaus to place your freeze, and simply follow the instructions to place your freeze and get a PIN.
Make sure to bookmark each website so you can lift the freeze later if the need for a new account arises, and keep your login/password information safe if a site requires you to create an account. One trick is that if you are applying for new credit, if you know which credit bureau the lender uses, you can lift the freeze temporarily for only that particular credit bureau, instead of all three.
Finally, make sure you keep your PIN somewhere safe, where it will not get lost. A lost security freeze PIN can be handled, but it takes a while and is a much bigger hassle than simply keeping track of your PIN.
Keep in mind that a freeze helps prevent one type of identity theft, but does not prevent existing accounts from being accessed with stolen credentials, fraudulent credit or debit card transactions, employment or medical identity theft, or the filing of fraudulent tax returns. In other words, even after you place a security freeze, you must still remain aware of the risks of identity theft and protect your personal information.