Credit freezes are now free in all 50 states, as required by a new federal law.
CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman said a credit freeze is something you want to do ahead of time to make sure there aren't any identity theft issues.
“It’s a lot better than alternatives like credit monitoring and checking up on your credit score and report. What those things are going to tell you is that there was a problem that already happened. A credit freeze is going to prevent the problem from happening in the first place,” said Rossman.
He said children are more vulnerable than adults, whose credit gets checked with banks and lenders. Children’s credit can go undetected for many years.
“I’ve heard of instances when a toddler’s identity was stolen and he or she didn’t find out until they graduated from college and started applying for credit on their own,” said Rossman.
Javilen Strategy & Research found 17 million cases of identity theft in America last year. One million of those was children.
A credit freeze will prevent anyone from seeing or accessing your credit—including you.
Make sure to unfreeze your credit at least three days in advance if you plan apply for a loan--auto or mortgage, credit card, renting an apartment, signing up for a new cell phone plan or accepting a job offer.
“The new law mandates that credit freezes can be lifted in less than one hour, but I recommend allowing a bit more lead time,” said Rossman. “That gives you a grace period in case you hit an unexpected delay. You don’t want to be stuck twiddling your thumbs in the finance manager’s office at your local car dealership, unable to secure financing because your credit is frozen, you can’t get the website to cooperate and there’s a long wait to speak with a phone representative.”
When you freeze credit, it's done with each of the three major credit bureaus--Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
Keep the personal identification number they give you to unfreeze your credit.
Texas was one of the most expensive states, costing up to $30 to freeze an account, and another $30 to unfreeze it.