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Why you might want to put a freeze on your credit reports, and how to do it

ABC24 spoke with Randy Hutchinson from the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South (BBB) about what people should know.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Putting a credit freeze on your reports at credit reporting agencies is one of the most effective ways to prevent identity theft, particularly after your information has been compromised in a data breach. But few people do it.

ABC24 spoke with Randy Hutchinson from the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South (BBB) about what people should know.

How a credit freeze works

  • A person must contact each of the three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – individually to put a freeze on their file.
  • A freeze prevents new lenders from accessing the file, which makes it unlikely they'll approve a fraudulent application submitted in someone’s name.
  •  A person must contact the agencies to have the freeze temporarily lifted if they apply for credit, rent a home, buy insurance, or conduct another transaction which requires checking a credit record.
  • There is no cost to freeze and unfreeze credit files.

Why don't more people freeze their credit record?

  • Most people are aware they can do it, but less than 30% ever have.
  • Many don't know how to do it.
  • Having to contact the three credit reporting agencies individually can be a hassle, but the hassle of recovering from identity theft is worse.
  • Many people think there's a cost.
  • They think it will negatively impact their credit score, which is not the case.

Should more people freeze their credit?

The Identity Theft Resource Center recommends:

  • Data breach notices should explicitly recommend a credit freeze.
  • Notices should make it clear credit monitoring alone cannot prevent a fraudulent account from being opened.
  • The credit reporting agencies should make the process easier, including creating a common system so consumers don't have to contact them individually.

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