Net Gains: Freeze! How to Combat ID Theft

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There is a push on to make credit freezes easier to implement and at a lower cost. Consumers Union and other advocacy groups are urging the FTC to adopt rules to make it easier and more affordable for consumers to implement a freeze through a "one-stop shopping" solution like a single web site.

The $10 charge now assessed by the credit bureaus to initiate or lift a freeze does not sound like much. But consider the cost for a married couple to implement a freeze at each of the three major credit bureaus and then lift it temporarily six months later. That would total $120.

For active families, that cost will rise quickly as they buy homes, send children to college and pursue careers.

Members of Congress also are urging the credit bureaus to lower barriers to credit freezes.

"High costs, cumbersome procedures, and obscured information erect unnecessary barriers to consumers who are eager to freeze their files," U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., wrote to Equifax CEO Richard F. Smith last year.

Those cumbersome procedures cited by Maloney mean you need to think carefully before implementing a freeze. Consider your borrowing needs in the near future, whether it's applying for a new credit card, buying an automobile or obtaining a mortgage to buy a home.

If any of these are in your immediate future, you may want to hold off on initiating a freeze. Or you might want to go ahead with the freeze, but do not forget to lift it temporarily when it comes time to apply for a needed loan.

This need to lift the freeze when applying to borrow money can be helpful to consumers with debt problems. It makes them think twice before applying for another credit card or seeking an auto loan beyond their means.

For more information about credit freezes and instructions on how to implement one, check out a Web site published by Consumers Union, FinancialPrivacyNow.org. It includes a state-by-state guide and suggestions on issues to consider before implementing a freeze that might be your best defense against becoming one of 8.3 million victims this year.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

David McPherson is founder and principal of Four Ponds Financial Planning (www.fourpondsfinancial.com) in Falmouth, Mass. He previously worked as a financial writer and editor for The Providence Journal in Rhode Island. He is a member of the Garrett Planning Network, whose members provide financial advice to clients on an hourly, as-needed basis. Contact McPherson at david@fourpondsfinancial.com

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