Equifax will join Experian and TransUnion in now allowing you to see your credit reports online even when your credit file is frozen. Previously, the Atlanta-based credit bureau was the only one of its peers that prevented credit freeze customers from seeing their report at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Credit freeze is the method I use to deal with the possibility of identity theft. As you probably know, each of the bureaus maintains an active dossier on you that contains info about your payment history, lines of credit and more. A credit freeze allows you to seal your credit reports with each bureau. (It does not affect your current use of credit in any way.)
When you do a freeze, you get a personal identification number (PIN) that only you know. That added layer of security means that crooks can’t establish new credit in your name even if they are able to take over other elements of your identity — because they don’t have your secret PIN.
Then when you actually want to apply for a new line of credit, you simply use your PIN to temporarily “thaw” your files for a short window of time. That makes them accessible to the creditor who’s considering you as a customer.
The cost to freeze your credit ranges from free to $10 per bureau, depending on your state. When you multiply that by 3 credit bureaus, you could pay anywhere from nothing to $30 for a freeze. (Victims of identity theft can have any fees waived, and seniors are often exempt from the fees in most states.)
And remember, when you do want to see your reports, there’s only one site: AnnualCreditReport.com.
I recently bought another piece of real estate because you always hear me talk about what a wonderful time it is to buy property…and I eat my own cooking!
Well, I did a loan for part of the purchase price. When I did so, I discovered that my score from one of the bureaus was much lower than the other 2 scores because this particular bureau was showing an incorrect lien from a county against me. And that was demolishing my score.
Then another bureau had me living at an address I hadn’t lived at in 2 decades! The irony is the last time I checked with them, they did have the right address. But somehow it flipped back.
My point is errors on your credit files can happen to anyone. PIRG reports that more than a third of us could potentially have a mistake on our credit. And a bad score will land you higher loan rates, higher insurance rates and you may even be denied a job offer by a potential employer. That’s why when I talk about AnnualCreditReport.com for checking your credit reports, I want you to take advantage of it.