Many consumers go to significant lengths in an attempt to repair credit and get their finances back on track, but when they do so, they might not take the time to put into place one security measure that can be a significant help when trying to avoid identity theft and potentially unfair markings.
One option that many consumers who are looking to get their credit back on track may want to take advantage of involves contacting the three major credit reporting bureaus and putting a credit freeze on their reports. This will essentially allow them to make sure no one has the ability to open accounts in their name or even order copies of their credit reports without their permission. That, consequently, will give them far greater control over who can see and access their credit going forward.
How a credit freeze works
It can be extremely easy for consumers to take advantage of such a security measure. All they have to do is contact each of the three credit bureaus and let them know that they want to put the measure in place. This can often be done with just a few simple steps, and comes with the significant benefit that no one will have access to their credit without their knowing about it in advance.
This option is extremely popular with consumers who have been victimized by identity theft, or fear that they might be, because it means that even if a criminal has gained access to their sensitive personal details — such as their names, addresses, dates of birth or Social Security numbers — they cannot use that information to open fraudulent accounts. Consumers also tend to use these measures when they don't have any plans to apply for credit in the relatively near future.
The good news for those people who might be interested in taking such measures is that in most states, these services are provided to a large percentage of the population for free. In many cases, identity theft victims will be extended this access to free security freezes, while other states may extend this courtesy to consumers over the age of 65. And even in states where such measures are not free, they only come with small charges, usually around $10 or less, when they are being added to a person's credit report, and then when they are being temporarily lifted. Removing such measures completely, when the time comes, is typically free for everyone, as long as they can provide proof of eligibility.
When putting such a measure into place, though, consumers will often need to provide a good amount of personal information to prove they are who they say they are. This likewise helps to ensure that borrowers are protected from someone trying to affect their credit without their knowing, because if they were to try to apply for an account and had a freeze placed on their account by someone else, they wouldn't be able to accomplish this goal, and might not even know how to lift or remove the security measure going forward.
And finally, when a borrower decides to either temporarily or permanently get the security freeze off their reports, doing so can be accomplished in a number of ways. In some cases, the borrower might be able to lift it online, as a means of doing so as expediently as possible. They can also do it by phone, which can take slightly longer, or by mail, which will obviously take the longest time of all. Once this is accomplished, a borrower's credit reports will once again be available for anyone to view or access as they may need.
How to protect credit without such a measure
Of course, consumers who may be reluctant to pay the fee to get a credit freeze put into place, where applicable, might be able to better protect themselves in another way: By regularly ordering copies of their credit reports and checking them over closely for any unfair markings which may be having an undue negative impact on their accounts. While this is more of a preventative measure than a proactive one, it can nonetheless be invaluable.
Fortunately, federal laws allow consumers to order one copy of their credit report from each of the three major bureaus once per year, and whether consumers decide to get them all at once or obtain one every few months instead, it can be extremely helpful in making sure everything listed on such a report is as it should be. Some individual states even allow consumers to order more than just the three copies of their reports, allowing for extra protections if necessary.
In the course of checking these documents over, if any unfair markings are discovered, it can be helpful to work with a credit repair law firm. This may help to more effectively remediate the potential issues.