In Sunday's column on being careful when getting your "free" credit report, we mentioned a couple of additional options for consumers: security freezes and fraud alerts.
Both are actions that you initiate with each of the three credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. In California, the state Attorney General's Office has how-tos on getting a security freeze.
Rocklin resident David Harry and his wife have had a security freeze on their files with the three credit bureaus for years. It's "a substantial safeguard (against) unauthorized credit access for fraudulent purposes," he said in an email.
Here's more detail:
You can place a fraud alert if you suspect there has been fraudulent activity involving your credit (ie. You're told by a store or credit card company that there's been a data breach of customer accounts.) It's akin to a red flag, warning anyone who accesses your credit history that possible fraud may be connected with your accounts.
A credit freeze takes it a step further. It lets you clamp shut any access to your credit reports by banks, lenders, insurance companies, potential employers, etc. It costs $10 per person to freeze your credit report with each of the three credit reporting bureaus. (A security freeze is $5 for those over 65; it's free if you've been a victim of identity theft and filed a police report.)
You have to make a separate request to each bureau. So if you're younger than 65, it would cost $30 total to freeze your credit history.
Once it's frozen, you can temporarily lift the freeze, such as when you're applying for a new credit card or loan. You can lift it for a specific time period or for a specific credit issuer, such as a mortgage lender.
The charge to temporarily unlock a credit freeze is $10 ($5 if you're 65 or older.)
Rocklin retiree Harry said "any inconvenience of having to authorize 'unlocks' is greatly outweighed by the enhanced security provided." He said he's even "tested" his security freeze by authorizing a credit issuer to check his credit history, then watch "with some amusement" when they discover they can't gain access.