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Ask Sid

Protecting Your Credit Report—and Your Identity

Will a credit freeze help?

Q. Will a credit freeze help protect me against theft, even if I never have been a victim? 

A. A freeze on your credit reports can stop identity thieves from opening accounts in your name. Only you can unlock the reports, with your PIN.

A freeze means new loans and credit cards won’t be issued in your name, but it also prevents prospective employers and insurance companies from viewing your credit history, which is now standard practice. If you’re moving and getting new utility service, or even getting a different wireless telephone provider, expect that a credit check may be required. If any of these situations apply to you, it may be wise to delay placing a freeze.

A credit freeze is especially helpful to previous victims of identity theft, who are more likely to be targeted than new victims, but many states allow anyone to place a freeze—even as a preventive measure. The Consumers Union maintains a site, Financialprivacy.org, with information on individual state laws.

Three agencies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—maintain credit reports. 

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of “Scam-Proof Your Life” (AARP Books/Sterling).

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