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Freeze your credit to prevent fraud

It is time for a freeze, not just temperature-wise. Freezing your credit is one of the best actions you can take to stop identity theft before it happens.

SAN ANTONIO — Be proactive and freeze crooks out.

“Don’t wait until you’ve been a victim of identity theft,” said Ted Rossman, a credit industry analyst with CreditCards.com. “It’s really a pain to unwind all of that. Just taking a few minutes now can save you a lot of time in the future. A credit freeze is really one of the best things we can do to protect our identity because it prevents any bad guys from opening credit in your name. That’s an especially harmful part of identity theft.”

You will need to freeze your credit with all three credit bureaus:  Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. There are three ways to do a freeze:  Online, on the phone, or through the mail.

“I did online, and it took me less than 10 minutes total,” Rossman said.

You can also freeze your children’s credit if they are under 18, but it has be done through the mail. You will also need to provide documentation like a birth certificate and Social Security card.

“It can be worth it because child identity theft is a thing,” Rossman said. “It often goes undetected for a long time because kids aren’t supposed to have credit reports and they’re not in the market for credit.”

A freeze is free, and it does not affect your credit score. Once your credit is frozen, here is what happens:

“Basically, what you’re doing is you’re preventing any new credit from being opened in your name or anybody else trying to open it in your name,” said Nathan Grant, a credit card industry analyst with Credit Card Insider.

The freeze is so good, it even locks you out. So, you will need to thaw it in these situations:

“It’s a new credit card,” Rossman said. “It’s a new car loan, mortgage, something like that. You may even have to lift it if a utility provider wants to check your credit like if you’re getting a new cable plan for example or a new cell phone plan, any kind of formal credit check, a landlord checking your credit history when you’re renting an apartment.”

It is free to unfreeze your credit. You can unfreeze your credit online or by phone. It should be unfrozen within an hour of your request, but do not wait until the last minute.

“I would say that sometimes your best plans go awry,” Rossman said. “I would tend to give maybe a day or two grace period. I wouldn’t necessarily want to be sitting in the finance manager’s office at the dealership and initiate the process. Yes, it should be quick, but if you hit some sort of snag like the website is down or you can’t get through on the phone, I think building in a day or two buffer is a good idea.”

The freeze will not affect your current credit cards. You can still use them as normal. Yet, keep in mind:

“It also won’t prevent fraud on cards that you already have,” Rossman said. “So, we still need to be mindful of looking for suspicious transactions and scanning your monthly statement.”

Put a freeze on fraud today.

If you have a question for Eyewitness Wants To Know, email us at EWTK@KENS5.com or call us as 210-377-8647.

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