I’ve talked before about freezing your credit and why it’s one of the your best tools for preventing identity theft. It might actually also reduce the amount of spam you get with credit offers. And it will have no effect whatsoever on your credit score. Most people think of the Big Three credit bureaus, but there’s a fourth now – Innovis – and you should freeze your credit there, too.
New Kid on the Block: Innovis
If you know about credit scores, you’re probably familiar with the three main credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. And you’ll need to contact each and every one of them to freeze your credit. However, there are actually other credit organizations out there. In particular, there’s a fourth one that seems big enough now that you should freeze your credit with them, as well: Innovis.
Personally, I would just go ahead and plant your flag at each site. That is, I would open a free online account with each one (using a password manager to create your password, of course). It will make managing your credit freeze simpler. However, you can also just fill out a form and get a PIN, too, without creating an account (at least for some of them).
Here are the links for freezing your credit at each credit agency:
This article has more helpful info on setting up a credit freeze.
Any Downsides to This?
Your credit report is used for purposes besides getting a new credit card or loan. Prospective employers may pull your credit report as part of their vetting for hiring you. If you’re trying to get a new cell phone or start new utility service, you’ll probably need to temporarily “thaw” your credit, as well. But these are minor inconveniences compared to dealing with identity theft. And thanks to recent laws in the US, freezing and unfreezing your credit is completely free and fairly easy to do. You can ask the lender or whoever which credit agency they use, and just thaw out that one account. Note that this freeze will not alter any existing credit relationships you have.
Don’t Fall for “Credit Lock”
Credit bureaus do not like it when you freeze your credit. They make money off of providing your credit report, and a freeze prevents that from happening. Now that it’s free, they really hate it. So some of them try to pull a bait-and-switch to get you to do something else instead. Sometimes they’ll try to get you to just do a fraud alert, which isn’t nearly as powerful as a freeze. Or they may try to get you to do a credit lock, which can cost money and isn’t the same thing at all as a credit freeze. Definitely go for the credit freeze.
Note that you can also freeze the credit for your children, too.
Read more on credit freezes here and here. And the article I wrote on this also talks about how to file an identity theft report and opting out of credit offers.